3.1 Are Recent Hurricane (Harvey, Irma, Maria) Disasters Natural?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 1:30 PM
Ballroom B (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Kevin E. Trenberth, NCAR, Boulder, CO

Yes and no! Hurricanes are certainly natural, but climate change is supersizing them! The observed increases of upper ocean heat content, that is clearly related to increasing heat-trapping gases from human activities, supports higher sea surface temperatures and atmospheric moisture, and fuels tropical storms to become more intense, bigger and longer lasting, thereby increasing their potential for damage. At the same time sea level is also steadily rising, increasing risks from coastal storm surges. The damage and loss of life from such storms does not have to be disastrous, however, if there is adequate preparation through better building codes, drainage systems, shelters, and evacuation plans. We have the options of stopping or slowing climate change from humans, and/or adapting to and planning for the consequences, but we are not doing enough of either! Harvey in Houston, Irma in the Caribbean and Florida, and Maria in Puerto Rico are excellent cases in point of the tragedy of global warming.
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