The growing power of hurricanes

New York Times
Trung Nguyen boarded up his brother’s convenience store in Abbeville, La., on Wednesday.Kathleen Flynn/Reuters
Hurricane Laura shares something in common with both Hurricane Florence, a 2018 storm that killed 52 Americans, and Hurricane Katrina, which struck Louisiana 15 years ago this week. All three changed from more typical hurricanes into severe ones in just a day or two.
That kind of rapid intensification — to use the scientific term for it — used to be rare. In recent years, it has become more common.
And that change is a useful summary of the how climate change is, and is not, affecting hurricanes.
The warming of the planet doesn’t seem to have increased the frequency of hurricanes. But it has increased their severityscientists say. Storms draw their energy from the ocean, and warmer water provides more energy. Warmer air, in turn, can carry more water, increasing rainfall and flooding.
Since the 1990s, the frequency of extreme hurricanes — either Category 4 or 5 — has roughly doubled in the Atlantic Ocean. No single storm is solely a result of climate change, of course. Yet climate change is leading to more storms like Laura.
By The New York Times | Source: National Hurricane Center
The scariest part of the trend is that it isn’t over. Climate change acts slowly. The destruction sweeping across Louisiana and Texas this morning will probably be even more common in the future than it is today.
More on the storm:
Laura made landfall as a Category 4 storm early this morning near the Louisiana-Texas border. The National Hurricane Center called the expected storm surge “unsurvivable,” and said that it could push 40 miles inland.
In a broader policy move, the federal government has begun giving up on protecting some flood-prone communities. It will instead use tax dollars to relocate those communities — a policy once dismissed as too radical.Saturday will be the 15th anniversary of Katrina making landfall in Louisiana. In an essay, Talmon Joseph Smith, a Times editor and New Orleans native, has reflected on the storm and calls its lessons “unlearned.”

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