Hurricanes Are Worsening, But Still No Talk of Climate Change in Louisiana Governor’s Race


Hurricane Florence as seen from NASA’s GOES East satellite Sept. 25, 2018. (NASA)

Last week, two news stories explained why some people wonder if Louisiana’s $92 billion coastal master plan might be a waste of time and money.

The first: Two peer-reviewed research papers concluded that human-caused climate change is producing hurricanes that are not only growing larger and wetter but also moving slower, adding to previous research pointing to the same results.

The second: The leading candidates for governor are not even mentioning climate change because they are afraid to upset the oil, gas and petrochemical industries — because their products are major causes of global warming.

The results of the research really shouldn’t surprise anyone aware of the fundamental science behind our warming planet. But here’s a quick review.

The greenhouse gasses — mainly from oil, gas and coal — man has been pumping into the atmosphere for the last 150 years has trapped heat over the planet. Higher air temperatures have led to greater evaporation of water from the ocean, putting more moisture into the clouds and storms. That warming is also causing ocean surface temperatures to rise increasing a key ingredient for hurricane development and growth.

Every year new evidence backs that science. We’ve had four Category 5 storms in the last 3 years (so far) after only 31 in 92 years. And severe rainfall events were so abundant this year, the Mississippi River stayed at flood stage for a record 211 days.

So the new and scary news in these latest reports was this: Storms are now moving slower as the climate warms.

A paper published in the journal Nature found between 1949 and 2016 the lateral speed of tropical storms slowed an average 10 percent worldwide and 16 percent in the North Atlantic — birthplace of our hurricanes. The most likely reason: The warming atmosphere has caused a slowing of the summertime winds which push hurricanes along their paths. And slower moving storms, the researchers pointed out, can grow larger and wetter because they stay longer over fuel-rich warmer waters.

That means any area the storms cross will suffer longer periods of potentially flooding rainfall and damaging winds. It’s like the difference between going three rounds with Mike Tyson or ten.

Recent examples abound. Take a look at the pictures showing what was left of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian stalled there over Labor Day weekend. Or, for that matter, what happened in Houston during Harvey in 2017, and in LaPlace when Cat. 1 Isaac decided to hang around for a few days in 2012.

That trend is expected to continue unless we reduce emissions.

Read the rest of the article at The Times-Picayune.