By Sarah Fiorello

By: Meghan Smith

Every day, people across the world go through their daily routines, without much thought. However, everything we do is connected, and human actions often make an impact on the environment. Driving a personal car on the way to work burns gasoline and releases emissions. The lights illuminating an office space, workshop, or class room require electricity that may come from a coal power plant that releases large amounts of greenhouse gases. Even purchasing produce from the grocery store that may have been transported thousands of miles on a truck, or come from a large scale farm throwing away tons of food can harm the environment. The consequences of simple actions are often not advertised to consumers, and people often unwittingly help create climate change. From large corporations to seemingly meaningless choices, humans have caused the planet to slowly warm, which in turn creates stronger hurricanes.

Although seemingly insignificant, many of the modern luxuries we take advantage of each day impact the environment. These impacts, from pollution from the factories that manufacture children’s toys, to the emissions from a fossil fuel burning cargo ship that carries fast fashion items across the world are greenhouse gases. Together, our collective actions add up to a massive climate impact. Worldwide, 50 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere every year. These gases trap heat from the sun that reflects off the surface of the Earth and prevents it from escaping the atmosphere, resulting in the warming of our planet in a process known as global warming.

From 1880 to 2019, the planet has warmed .07℃ every decade on average, but has been warming faster in recent years, at a rate of .18℃ per decade.

While most people think of global warming as increasing the temperature of the atmosphere, the majority of the excess heat energy is absorbed by the ocean. 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases is absorbed by the ocean, with only 1% being absorbed by the air. From 1971 to 2010, the top 75 meters of the ocean has risen in temperature by an average of .11 ℃ per decade. Warmer air and warmer ocean temperatures create more favorable conditions for stronger hurricanes.

Global warming has warmed both the air and oceans, and as a result, has created the conditions for more powerful hurricanes. Warmer air can hold more evaporated water, resulting in increased humidity that helps storms grow. Furthermore, storms weaken when they travel over cold water, but if ocean temperatures rise, there will be less to weaken them before they make landfall. By the late 21st century, the average intensity of storms is expected to increase by 4%, category 4 and category 5 hurricanes will increase by 24% and tropical cyclones with wind speeds greater than 65 m/s will increase by 59%, according to one study.

Stronger hurricanes could mean more destruction. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the southeastern United States and left a trail of destruction in its wake. Over one million people were displaced from their homes, tens of thousands lost their jobs, and 1833 people died. 250,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, including 134,000 housing units, which made up 70% of the housing units were damaged in the city of New Orleans. Unfortunately, people will continue to be affected by hurricanes, as in the next 60 years the number of people who are threatened by hurricanes is predicted to grow more than eightfold.

Works Cited

  • Ritchie, Hannah. “Sector by Sector: Where Do Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Come From?” Our World in Data, 18 Sept. 2020, ourworldindata.org/ghg-emissions-by-sector. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.
  • Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Fifth Assessment Report. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1 Nov. 2014.
  • Knutson, Thomas R., et al. “Global Projections of Intense Tropical Cyclone Activity for the Late Twenty-First Century from Dynamical Downscaling of CMIP5/RCP4.5 Scenarios.” Journal of Climate, vol. 28, no. 18, Sept. 2015, pp. 7203–7224, journals.ametsoc.org/jcli/article/28/18/7203/34019/Global-Projections-of-Intense-Tropical-Cyclone, 10.1175/jcli-d-15-0129.1. Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.
  • CNN Library. “Hurricane Katrina Statistics Fast Facts.” CNN, 2013, www.cnn.com/2013/08/23/us/hurricane-katrina-statistics-fast-facts/index.html. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.
  • Johnson, David. Service Assessment Hurricane Katrina August 23-31, 2005. National Weather Service, June 2006.