The calm before the storm? Experts predict hurricane season to get worse | Earth Day Network

By Katie Wood

Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, and right now, we are in the eye of the storm.

Names are being thrown around like we’re at baby shower: Dorian, Humberto, Lorenzo — and those are just this year’s hurricanes.

Estimates for tropical storms vary, but just for 2019, meteorological experts predict a total storm count  between 18–30. If that feels like a lot, it’s because it is. Not only is the frequency of these tropical tantrums increasing but so is their intensity.

And if we continue down this road of rising temperatures due to climate change, it’s only going to get worse.

What are experts saying?

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its special report on oceans and the cryosphere, which had a lot to say about hurricanes. Most notably, the report stated that hurricanes at category 4 or 5 have increased in frequency over the last 30 years.

If that isn’t bad enough, according to NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, the intensity and duration of hurricanes have also increased and are on track to get worse.

Some could call it the perfect storm.

Weathering the storm

Getting through these storms unscathed will become increasingly difficult. As we’ve seen with Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, it’s not just small island chains that need to plan for the weather; it’s also big cities. But we must design the adaptations for these cities with everyone in mind. The problem is that we don’t have a good track record with this kind of adaptation, even before cities faced the devastating effects of climate change.

In the 1900s, Robert Moses — New York City’s master planner — designed the city in a way that segregated populations. With intentionally exclusive city planning, Moses ensured that only those of means would have access to certain areas like parks, playgrounds and beaches.

In modern cities, those with less are most at risk. Survival depends on access to safe, affordable spaces, but historically, those are out of reach for low-income communities. A prime example of this is New Orleans’s Seventh Ward, a neighborhood comprised mostly of people with lower incomes, which took a drastic beating from Katrina. A decade after the infamous hurricane, only 60% of the ward had been rebuilt.

So, what’s being done?

Cities around the world are trying to plan with the future in mind, but it’s pricey.

Miami Beach has been taking climate resilience planning to a whole new level. Literally. Part of the city’s adaptation strategy is to “have all roads reach 3.7[feet] … to deal with flooding issues,” according to the website Miami Beach Rising Above.

Of course, Miami Beach is relatively affluent compared to its neighbor, the Florida Keys, which are not as prepared as an island chain should be.

Less than 100 miles from Miami, the island chain was greatly damaged by Hurricane Irma back in 2017. Two years later, applicants from the Keys are still waiting on millions of dollars in federal disaster funding. Even more shocking, the last Climate Action Plan for Monroe County’s Florida Keys did not list building more resilient public structures as a high priority.

I have to believe we’ll band together to mitigate these effects, or at the very least, rise to meet the waves.

Otherwise, Venice is about to be a lot less charming.


Katie Wood is the conservation and biodiversity manager at Earth Day Network. 

Image at top: Hurricane Dorian, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo credit: Nick Hague/NASA.