Hurricane Sandy - One of the Examples of the Effects of Global Warming

For years researchers have been trying to establish the connection between the increasing frequency of storms, such as Hurricane Sandy (another catastrophic weather disaster) and human activity. One team, in particular, led by Parker, is investigating the effect that climate change and the increase in ocean temperature is having on the intensity and frequency of these catastrophic weather events and what we can do to diminish their impact. The team's paper was published July 10th by the Global Climate Change Society.

Climate change - often confused with the natural greenhouse effect - is caused by activity that encourages the use of greenhouses gases such as agriculture and forestry. The researchers have identified several types of greenhouse gases which include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. They found that, whilst in the atmosphere, these compounds - composed of three or more atoms - are held together loosely enough that they vibrate and absorb the sun's energy in the form of photons(the smallest discrete amount of electromagnetic radiation). The reverberating molecules will discard their extra energy by emitting more radiation toward the Earth’s surface, therefore, accelerating the rate at which the climate and the temperature of the sea increases.

The increase in temperature has led to numerous problems besides changes in weather. These issues include shrinking glaciers, trees flowering sooner, animal ranges shifting and sea levels rising. Areas of coast that are minimally above sea level will be first affected by intense flooding and will lead to mass evacuations. 'Despite the changes we've already seen across the planet, there is still so much we can do to adapt to the changing climate and manage its consequences,' says Benjamin Cook, a scientist at Columbia's Lament-Doherty Earth Observatory and one of the study's co-authors.

Unfortunately, there is no strict cure for catastrophic weather events such as the Hurricane Sandy. Scientists and researchers have also identified other at-risk areas around water where sea walls can be constructed, and irrigation systems set up that can reduce the amount of flooding which devastates thousands of homes during these disasters. Seawalls are not only expensive to install but need routine maintenance if they are to withstand the prolonged assault of pounding waves, though, in many places, they are considered essential to prevent homes and buildings being wiped out to sea. After Hurricane Sandy, a storm that meteorologist Martin Hoerling says was 'enhanced by global warming', a 5.3-mile long sea wall for Staten Island was invested in and the infrastructure could possibly save the island over $30 million a year in damages caused by flooding.

Climate change is not only bad news for those on low-lying coastland. Nevertheless there are some strategies that can help to overcome this issue in the future. These strategies and defences cannot be established overnight. It takes many years and billions in funding to build infrastructure, prepare locals for precautionary measures and implement humanitarian aid schemes. 'We still have a lot to discover about how to manage these atrocious weather events,' Cook says. 'In the meantime, it's just a race to help those who are most in need.'

07 July 2022
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