The Recipe for Bigger, Badder Future Sandy-like Hurricanes? Just Add Water

The Recipe for Bigger, Badder Future Sandy-like Hurricanes? Just Add Water
So, we all breathed a sigh of relief and felt a lot less guilty about global warming when a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science said that rising temperatures might actually protect those on the East Coast from another super storm like Hurricane Sandy. Authors of the study proclaimed that warmer temps will cause atmospheric conditions to shift, pushing these storms out to sea. But, Hurricane Sandy wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill storm, it hit heading west (about a 1 in 700 year probability) slamming into the coast and building momentum, instead of turning north or northeastward, to head out to sea and lose power. According to the study, during the next ten years, we can expect rising temperatures to cause the jet stream and other atmospheric currents that steer hurricanes to blow more directly eastward, shoving more storms into the open Atlantic, making Sandy-like storms unlikely.

But, don’t take the ply-wood off the windows just yet. As the jet stream steers storms in a positive direction, those same warm temperatures are contributing to another major factor in the birth of a super storm – rising sea levels. A recent study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, stated that the mid-Atlantic Coast should brace itself for a “looming sea level rise crisis,” resulting in more Sandy-like disasters in the coming decades.

When Sandy hit, the tide was in, contributing to its enormous one-two punch. But, if Sandy had hit, with the same characteristics, in 1950 instead of 2013, its impact would not have been as devastating. The reason; in 1950 the sea level was lower and even at high tide, and with high winds, it would have needed a larger volume of water to drive it ashore. Sandy was a big storm with a big water generator. Our 1950-storm is a big storm, with not enough water to fuel it forward far enough to reach land.

Well then, how does the off-shore storm of the future get to be a bigger problem than Sandy? Just add water. As the earth gets warmer the Arctic ice melts and flows into the sea and the levels rise. The powerful Jet Stream air gets warmer and changes direction, thrusting off-shore storms way out to sea. At the same time, like a surfer catching the biggest wave of his life, these faraway storms use the sheer volume of the rising sea to propel themselves to the shore, gaining more momentum and strength than a Sandy.

The Bulletin of American Meteorological Society predicts that these storms of the future will have the largest impact south of Atlantic City, along the coast of the Middle Atlantic States. Although scientists don’t expect storms such as these to happen very often in the next two decades, they do predict that by 2050, these super storms will become an annual event. For those in the Sandy Hook region, you’ll have to wait until 2100 before these super storms reach you on an annual basis.

Written By: Lisa S Nance

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