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Climate change powers "Frankenstorm" Sandy

A record-smashing superstorm is expected to slam into the eastern seaboard of the United States today. After rampaging though the Caribbean islands, hurricane Sandy has swelled into a massive storm system, as it plows along the east coast. Tropical force winds span over 1,500 km, making it the "largest hurricane in Atlantic history". An expanse of open ocean more than 2,500 km across is frothing with waves greater than 12 feet high. A monstrous slab of sea water is being shoved onto the coast and is expected to drive a record storm surge onto land for many regions, including New York City where subways have been shut down in case the tunnels flood.

Is climate change helping to fuel this "Frankenstorm"?

Don't expect to find out from the major media. A study showed that last week major newspapers wrote 94 stories about hurricane Sandy and exactly zero mentioned "climate change", "global warming" or "extreme weather". Zombie media.

Fortunately, we have access to climate scientists and meteorologists via the web's new media.

Here are six ways I've seen climate scientists and meteorologists explain the climate connection:

1. Pumping it up on steroids

The trillion tonnes of climate pollution humans have released from burning oil, natural gas and coal is trapping tremendous amounts of extra energy into our weather.

Climate scientist James Hansen calculates our fossil fuel CO2 pollution injects energy "equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year". That's 278 atomic bombs worth of energy every minute—more than four per second—non-stop. To be clear, that is just the extra energy being gained each day on top of the energy heating our planet by 0.8 degree C. It is the rate at which we are increasing global warming.

This extra energy is like steroids for weather. Our weather used to take place in a lower-energy climate. Now it happens in a turbo-charged climate system.

Climate scientist, Dr. Kevin Trenberth sums it up:

"The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be…"

This "Frankenstorm" has grown up in much higher energy system.

2. Cooking it up over warmer oceans

Around 90 per cent of the energy our fossil fuel pollution is injecting into our climate is ending up as extra heat in our oceans. Tropical storms are fuelled in part by the heat energy they extract from the oceans. The warmer the oceans, the more energy available to a hurricane.

US government research shows:

"Atlantic tropical cyclone (hurricane) activity, as measured by both frequency and the Power Dissipation Index (which combines storm intensity, duration, and frequency) has increased. The increases are substantial since about 1970, and are likely substantial since the 1950s and 60s, in association with warming Atlantic sea surface temperatures."

And, it is going to get worse: "It is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation."

More in Climate Snapshot

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Comments

Great article.Stupid

Great article.


Stupid comments, so far.

 

The other wrinkle this year is the very extreme melt of the Arctic which seems to have set up permanent highs over Baffin Bay, and a couple other spots.  These are new conditions affecting much of the northern hemishere in unusual ways, including unusually early and heavy snows in parts of central and southern Europe.

 

See Neven's Arctic Ice Blog for more intelligent comments than seem to have been produced here so far.

Oh yes. Permannent highs.

Oh yes. Permannent highs. Cause weather is locked inpermanent cycles now. Just like weather isn't climate, unless you want to write fear mongering articles, then one storm is climate. Want to bet this same stuff happened in every other warm cycle the planet has gone through? Like the Medieval Warm Period, the one the Romans had, and the one the Greeks had before they got slapped by a cold cycle that forced them to abandon cities that crops could no longer support. Oh noes. It's record breaking. Meanwhile the distance our records reach back is worth a fart in the breeze compared to what the planet has experienced, just in terms of how long people have been around, much less before.

Climate always has and always will change. "Climate Change" is redundant.

Discouraged

I have read, and continue to read such articles because I am interested to hear if someone actually has something concrete to tell me about our extreme weather. But once again, I find that "recorded history" is referenced to drive home the point regarding the climate extremes. Quote, "ocean temperatures in this area have been the second warmest ever recorded". Well folks, the last time I checked--that recorded history is quite recent history and does not account for the hundreds and thousands of years of climate that has come before. For us to speculate that is it solely and completely the "climate pollution humans have released from burning oil, natural gas and coal is trapping tremendous amounts of extra energy into our weather" and not mention that the beautiful earth has been through ice ages and melts multiple times, it to be blind. It is true that the chemistry that we put into the air, can have a toxic effect, and in some places due to geography, it is far worse for the patrons living in it...and it is true that efforts we are making as a country are helping to reduce some of those emissions are having a positive effect on air quality. I am simply not convinced that we can state or base our theory regarding "Climate Change" with such short sided perspective. It is in my opinion that we are in a cycle of weather-change, one that is largely natural and would have occurred with or without our help. Articles such as this one are misleading at best. Please educate yourself--rely not on the "zombie media".

horsefeathers!

There have been many hurricanes and severe storms according to Wikipedia.  List of New York hurricanes encompasses 84 tropical or subtropical cyclones that have affected the state of New York since the 17th century....and in 1938 we’re told  The strongest of these storms was the 1938 New England Hurricane, which struck Long Island as a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Killing more than 600 people,...”Yes,Katrina was a big  one---the climate change disciples immediately went to work to preach that we’ll see many more Katrinas..and on and on--I’ve not noticed  many MORE Katrinas ---oh well maybe then the hurricanes  decided to move up the coast—why not New York; “told you” they might  say!Point—we don’t know and IPCC haven’t convinced open minded folks that they know much--The science is not settled –in fact the factors affecting climate are barely understood some say and what we do understand can not be quantified in any meaningful way..—Obama and Romney debate—and take the chance that their ideas will be challenged—good for them---the IPCC folks either lack confidence or the cojones to enter open debate;to take the heat,so to speak!