Hurricanes and tropical storms will occur even if global warming is not occurring, but many scientists agree that storms such as hurricane Sandy will become more intense as the planet warms. Hurricane sandy was devasting for many people on the East coat from Maryland to Massachusetts. It is possible that it could become one of the costliest hurricanes that has ever occurred. Climate change may have influenced Sandy though sea level rise, warm sea surface temperatures, and unusual weather patterns that could have been created from melting arctic sea ice. These conditions have most likely made the impacts worse than they should have been.
The warm sea surface temperatures are a contribution to how intense sandy was. The Atlantic Ocean had strangely high surface temperatures this past season, approximately 5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal. Manmade global warming is believed to be responsible for 1 out of the 5 degrees. The western Atlantic ocean had these high temperatures before the storm has occurred which allowed Sandy to travel north. Hurricanes require water about 80 degrees to survive so the high temperatures off the Carolinas and Mid-Atalantic offered energy for Hurricane sandy to move north. These warmer seas allow more water vapor for storms which cause heavy rainfall and lead to flooding and an increase in sea level. The warm water and high sea level is supposed to create stronger hurricanes that appear less frequently.
The water level was at its highest peak during Hurricane Sandy, even higher than expected. The water level was 13.88 above the average daily lowest low tide of the month, or in simpler terms 9.15 feet above the average high-tide line. Since sea levels are supposed to rise, if a storm similar to Sandy hit in 2050 it would create much more damage. By 2050 the Northeast Coast will sea much higher sea levels than any other part of the East coast if the sea level continues to rise at this accelerated pace. So far the ocean has rose 8 inches in the past century and, the rate has accelerated to a foot per century and could possibly exceed 3 feet by 2100. The IPCC has found that sea level rise could have increased costal high water events around the world creating high levels of water vapor that intensify hurricanes like Sandy. These high sea levels could be a result of Arctic sea ice melting
Another contribution to the destructive force of Sandy may have been the melting of the Arctic sea ice. The temperature in the Arctic has risen a substantial amount creating a record breaking Arctic sea ice melt this summer. Also the glaciers in Greenland set records in August for the amount that has melted. Since the 1970’s approximately 50% of the Arctic sea ice has melted, which is believed to be a result of human created global warming. Although its effects have been world wide it’s not clear if Hurricane sandy was an random occurrence and a warning of future storms. The melting sea ice can change the flow of the atmosphere which has the possibility to be linked to the blocking pattern over Greenland that caused Sandy to take a left turn to the U.S.
The connection between the Arctic and blocking is only a theory, but it has seemed to prove true. The Arctic warming has alternated the weather pattern though out the world re-distributing air masses and the position of the jet stream. The melting sea ice expands in open water, absorbing more solar energy, which adds heat and moisture into the atmosphere, causing more blocking events. When hurricane Sandy moved away from the Caribbean it got stuck in a channel of air and pulled into the U.S. The high pressure over Greenland jammed upper air flow while the jet stream carried Sandy east and upper level winds absorbed moisture. these factors blocked the North Atlantic creating an intense combination of a hurricane and nor’easter.
Climate change has clearly changed the weather conditions for storms but Hurricane Sandy could possibly be a rare event because the blocking pattern and unusually high temperatures that occurred. Regardless of if Hurricane Sandy is a result of global warming it still is important to note that it was a hybrid storm which is rare in itself. This hurricane has brought many questions; Will this happen again? Is climate change severely affecting storms and weather? Should coastal populations worry? More scientific research must be done to find out why the storm happened and what to expect in the future because no one is certain yet.