The Atlantic hurricane season, which ends on November 30, can produce devastating storms. Last year’s season was one for the record books with 15 named storms. Florence was a monster. At Category 4 it smashed North Carolina’s shoreline before burning up in the Bahamas.
The population of the U.S. Gulf Coast and East Coast adds to the concern and so does the Earth’s extreme weather: Planet warming has scientists concerned and more hurricanes loom.
Climate change has been blamed for creating a more favorable environment for powerful storms, with rainfall intensifying and shifts in wind patterns. But there is a second explanation.
“More of our weather is urbanized,” Northwestern University’s Dennis Feltgen said. “In the past, we had a lot of open lands. We still do. But now we have much more people concentrated on ever more densely populated coastlines.”
Feltgen points to a sea level rise of as much as 6 inches in Miami. Add in increased population and more development and “you get more flooding,” he said.
Scientists say five to eight major storms per year is the norm for the Atlantic. Climate models predict an average season will rise to six major storms per year, at the upper end of the range.
Many scientists say that average is not a reliable prediction.
If global temperatures don’t drop soon, Miami-Dade County could see more than 10 inches of sea level rise by 2085, according to computer models. Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge was 10 feet. Another surge of 10 feet would flood much of downtown Miami.
Sandy also did significant damage to other coastal areas, including Long Island, New York, and Charleston, South Carolina.