Ocean temperatures rise

Published: February 18, 2016

Links to stronger hurricanes

ALEX HABER
Science & Tech Editor

Increased global emissions of carbon dioxide have led to the increase in the average yearly temperature across the globe, and consequently the temperature of the oceans as well. With the hurricane season on the horizon on the East Coast, many whofrequent the coast or live in areas typically subjected to tropical storms cannot help but wonder what the hurricane season has in store.

In anticipation of the coming season, scientists at the University of Maryland’s Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center conducted an experiment designed to simulate the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic. This study comes in response to super storm Sandy that struck the United States in October 2012.

Hurricane Sandy was the perfect storm. It was the combination of multiple factors that led it to attain record-breaking strength. Areas along the coast that were most devastated by the storm are still on the road to recovery. Although the storm was over three years ago, the local economy has not yet recovered according to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The storm reportedly caused upwards of 71 billion dollars in damage and has caused economic damage to industry and tourism.

There are several factors that have a direct effect on the formation of hurricanes. Hurricanes only form over the warm water located along the equator. They form all over the Earth under other pseudonyms such as typhoons or cyclones. The warm, moist air found along the equator serves as a fuel source for these storms. A hurricane is a coagulation of cumulonimbus clouds that then begin to rotate counter-clockwise or clockwise depending on where they form relative to the equator.

Meteorologists rate hurricanes on a scale of one to five, depending on their wind speed and storm surge.

Typically hurricanes weaken as they move inland due to the loss of their source of fuel, the warm tropical waters. Sometimes, as in the case of Hurricane Sandy, they can combine with storms formed inland to regain strength.

The topic of hurricane strength is relevant to climate discussions today, as world climate change may contribute to increased hurricane strength in future seasons. It is difficult for scientists to conclude that climate change has had an effect on the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic. They do not reject the possibility that it may play a factor, but at the moment they cannot definitively connect the two topics. The changes might be subtle in magnitude or our instruments may be limited in their ability to detect certain alterations.

The study conducted does not reflect this upcoming season, but rather reflects a possibility in the future. It is just one perspective on a possible result of our rising global temperature. The scientists admit that the system is not perfect and merely looks at one variable, ocean temperature. A number of different factors cause hurricanes, so no system can perfectly predict the strength of a storm or the path that it will follow.

Contact the writer: alexander.haber@scranton.edu

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