Climate Change is Fueling Hurricanes like Ida
This image toggle caption Scott Olson/Getty Images
When Ida struck Louisiana on Sunday, it was a powerful Category 4 storm. The hurricane caused roof damage and snapped power lines with sustained winds of around 150 mph. The storm created a wall of water strong enough to sweep houses off their foundations, and pull boats and barges away from their moorings.
Ida gained strength quickly due to climate change right before it reached land. It went from a Category 1 storm to a Category 4 storm in just 24 hours as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico.
The temperature of bathwater in the ocean was 85 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this is a few degrees warmer than the average.
The storm was fueled by the extra heat. Heat is energy. Hurricanes that have more energy produce higher wind speeds and greater storm surges. Scientists say that major hurricanes like Ida, which are rapidly intensifying, will become more common as the Earth heats up.
This trend is especially evident for storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean. These storms include storms such as Ida, which travel over the warm and shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea. A study from 2019 found that hurricanes formed in the Atlantic were more likely to become very powerful very quickly.
For years, residents along the Gulf Coast of America have lived with this climate reality. Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Michael and Hurricane Laura were all severed quickly before they reached land. Ida now joins this list.
Hurricanes such as Ida can be dangerous because people have less time to prepare. It can be too late for people to evacuate when the storm's strength is obvious.
Flood risk from hurricanes is also increased by abnormally hot water. As they build up water over the water, hurricanes absorb moisture and then dump it as rain. Water vapor is more easily sucked up the hotter the water and hotter the atmosphere.
Flooding can affect even areas that are far away from the coast. Forecasters warn residents of Ida that heavy rains could be expected on the northeastward route to the Mid-Atlantic. On Monday, parts of central Mississippi could see up to a foot rain.