Hurricanes, get your hurricanes!

In August of 2005, like many Americans, we sat and watched with trepidation as a category five hurricane named Katrina wreaked havoc on the gulf coast. In New Orleans, mandatory evacuations were issued--and while the city was able to withstand the initial storm, it could not endure the flooding from the breached levees that ensued. The story unfortunately was not any better for the areas surrounding that city, with everywhere from Mississippi to Florida being effected.

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, thousands lost their homes, jobs and for some their lives itself. To this day New Orleans is but a shell of its former self, with less than twenty percent of the lower ninth ward inhabited. These storms have produced what arguably can be called the first domestic climate refugees in the history of the United States. The events of that August were the harbinger of the climate crisis that every man, woman and child now faces.

Therefore, it is with no surprise to learn that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expecting a significant number of hurricanes to materialize this year. Last year it was said that the United States was fortunate to not have hurricanes strike inland, even though there were nine storms in the region of the Caribbean sea. This year NOAA is asking people living along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to prepare for what could be a formidable season.

So why are we seeing more hurricanes? Why are they more powerful than ever before? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, one factor is rising sea levels creating higher storm surges, which increase coastal flooding. Then, “as warm, moist air rises, it lowers air pressure at sea level and draws surrounding air inward and upward in a rotating pattern. As the water vapor-laden air spirals in and rises to higher altitudes, it cools and releases heat as it condenses to rain. This cycle of evaporation and condensation brings the ocean's heat energy into the vortex, powering the storm.”

The climate is rapidly changing before us. The way of living that we have become accustomed to will change as the earth changes, whether we like it or not. At least if we alter our lifestyles and greenhouse gas emissions now, the change and adaptation will be more on our terms.