Did Hurricane Sandy Happen Because of Global Climate Change?

Last Monday, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the United States with power and destruction in its eyes. This Superstrom has created a mess to be cleaned and took the lives of over 50 US citizens. It is a sad, scary reality and many of us are wondering, is this happening because of global warming?

Looking into the research behind what creates a storm of this magnitude it becomes clear the list of variables is long. There are contributing factors to why a storm such as Sandy becomes so powerful. Indeed, global warming is one of those contributing variables. In Scientific American, Mark Fischetti wrote, “Insurers, scientists and journalists are beginning to drop the caveats and simply say that climate change is causing big storms. As scientists collect more and more data over time, more of them will be willing to make the same data-based statements.” The debate amongst the science world regarding the relationship of global warming and natural catastrophes is becoming less of an argument and more of an agreement.

Looking at climate trends it is evident that ocean waters are getting warmer. The result of the warm water can lead to different environmental issues, such as coral bleaching, but for Storm Sandy, the warm waters fueled it. Warmer water means more energy for storms. It is as if we have been preparing the ultimate protein meal for storms to worsen. On top of this the amount of moisture in the atmosphere has grown. The added retained moisture in the atmosphere gets drawn into the storm. So it is fair to say, the extra moisture in the air is like an amazing glass of milk, just adding to the growth and strength of the storm.

The most interesting aspect to Storm Sandy is learning about the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). NAO is a climate phenomenon in the North Atlantic Ocean of fluctuations in the difference of atmospheric pressure at sea level. This month what occurred was a mixture of changing pressures. The Jet Stream, a cold southern pressure came low mixing with the warm Atlantic air. This pattern of a pressure center stuck over the northern Atlantic Ocean and southern Arctic Ocean is known as a blocking high. What caused this blocking high mixture of pressures is the North Atlantic Oscillation? This is where it all comes back together, the NAO caused what climatologists call a blocking high, a change in positive and negative pressures.

The next question, is well what caused the NAO phenomenon to occur this month? “Recent research by Charles Greene at Cornell University and other climate scientists has shown that as more Arctic sea ice melts in the summer—because of global warming—the NAO is more likely to be negative during the autumn and winter. A negative NAO makes the Jet Stream more likely to move in a big, wavy pattern across the U.S., Canada and the Atlantic, causing the kind of big southward dip that occurred during Sandy.”

When Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was giving a ralley speech in Virginia Beach, the crowd began to scream at him. After Storm Sandy, citizens of the United States are looking at their governments plan to address climate change. Romney in this election has made a relatively poor effort to address climate needs. Click here, to view the crowd of citizens yelling at Mitt Romney.

The atmosphere in which we live, depend on, and need to protect, is highly connected. The melting ice from a summer can mean nothing, until a the small threads connect in a very visible way. If melting ice caps seemed removed from our current lives, we can see in this devastation how a life in New York does have a relationship with the global climate change occurring.

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