Why Hurricane Ida Hit The Northeast So Hard, 1,000 Miles Away From Its Landfall

Why Hurricane Ida Hit the Northeast so Hard, 1,000 Miles From Its Landfall
Enlarge this image toggle caption Michael Candelori/NurPhoto/Reuters Michael Candelori/NurPhoto/Reuters

How did Hurricane Ida's remnants cause such destruction in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York just days after it struck the Gulf Coast approximately 1,000 miles away?

Tripti Bhattacharya is an assistant professor of earth- and environmental sciences at Syracuse University. She believes that one reason is that the system was fueled by the "just the right combination of weather conditions."

NPR's She said that a storm such as this would have been rare 20 or 50 year ago. "But, we need to think about it becoming the norm as our climate warms," she said.

Bhattacharya's research about regional rainfall and climate change was included in the U.N. climate change report.

NOTE: This interview was edited for clarity.

What surprised you when Ida did the Northeast after destroying parts of the Gulf Coast?

Yes, I was shocked. It's true that hurricane remnants can cause a lot of the Northeast's extreme rainfall, so I was expecting some severe rainfall.

It turned out that it was just the right combination of weather conditions. The remnants of Ida met an extratropical front. These combined created really severe rainfall in New York City and surrounding areas.

Ida also spent some time in the northern Gulf of Mexico over a particular warm area of water, which allowed it to intensify quickly.

Based on decades of research, it is likely that hurricanes will become more intense due to global warming. Ida is therefore not surprising.

Could a storm such as this have been imagined 20 years ago?

This kind of storm would have been rarer 20 years ago than it was 50 years ago. However, we need to think about this storm becoming more common as the climate heats.

It's simple physics. As the atmosphere heats, more moisture can be stored. This means that there is more fuel for rain.

We have all seen maps of hurricane risk areas. It's difficult to convince people to be prepared for big rain events.

We are moving into a new world. What is the reference to "Flooding in New York City"? It's hard to imagine subways flooding so dramatically. It's about getting people to listen more, since we now know what could happen.

This also shows the importance of having a good infrastructure for weather forecasting. This storm had remarkable forecast tracks.

The East is being hit by flooding, while the West is suffering extreme drought. Do these situations have anything to do with each other?

The reason is that the atmosphere now has more moisture from climate change. This causes us to see amplification in historic patterns of dry and wet.

It's clear that more moisture is moving towards the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard if you look at it from a global perspective. More moisture is being taken away from historically dry places like the West.

Emergency crews and supplies were prepared for the storm on the Gulf Coast. Do more states need to do this type of preparation?

Yes. Yes. We will continue to see the same thing, even if we don’t take action to reduce our carbon emissions. It is crucial that we have a national conversation about adaptation in terms of both infrastructure and emergency plans.

There are huge differences in how homes and towns are constructed on the Gulf Coast and in the Northeast. These dynamics are important.

There is a risk in geography. You didn't see as much flooding if you lived in New York's Uptown.

You need to pay attention to who is going to be most affected by the recession. This means you should look at vulnerability maps and how it relates to income. It can affect your ability to move at the drop of an ear.