The Link Between Sandy and Global Warming

Photo by National Weather Service. Some rights reserved.

As we’ve rightly focused our national attention squarely on the well-being of America’s east coast in the midst of Hurricane Sandy (please consider making a donation to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts here), there doesn’t appear to be much else happening in the wide world of environmental news and politics. However, as photos and on-site reports continue to flow in from New York and elsewhere across the coast, some have began to ask whether or not Sandy really is a freak occurrence, or if it is more a product of that scourge to American prosperity known as “global warming.”

While pointing out that climate scientists are not yet in a secure position to offer a resounding “yes” to the question of climate change’s involvement in Sandy, many have cited high surface temperatures in the band of Atlantic ocean closest to the east coast (five degrees higher than average for this time of year) as a “likely contributor to the intensity of Sandy.

Kevin Trenberth, climate scientist of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, gave an insightful interview to Slate, where he offered his take:

“Most of what is going on with Sandy is weather, and there is a large chance element to it, but it is all occurring in an environment where the ocean is a bit warmer, the air above the ocean is warmer and moister, and that is fuel for the storm and especially adds to the risk of heavy rainfalls and flooding… Even if the storm just happened to do exactly the same things it’s doing anyway, the fact that sea level went up 6 inches last century, and that sea level is somewhat higher now than it has been at any time in recent history, means that all of the coastal regions are experiencing new levels of pounding and erosion.”

Meanwhile, Megan McCain was chastised on Twitter today by members of the conservative right for suggesting that Sandy was a result of global warming, and Donald Trump has (very graciously) extended his now-infamous $5 million offer to President Obama in light of the storm.

One response to this post.

  1. […] often the case, this episode covers a lot of ground and gives its listeners a lot to chew over:  reflections on climate change issues surrounding Hurricane Sandy last fall, a rancher/farmer perspective on climate change fears, documentation of Colorado’s extremely wild […]


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