The State of Our Planet

Is 2017 the year of natural disasters?

The Atlantic coastlines have been ravaged with three category four hurricanes in the last month, causing billions of dollars of catastrophic damage. To put this into perspective, a category four hurricane must contain winds of between 130-156 miles per hour and may be coupled with heavy rains, severe damage to well-built structures, and power outages that could last weeks at a time as reported by the National Hurricane Center. Any hurricane over a category 3 is considered a “major hurricane,” and could leave the areas affected uninhabitable for weeks and months at a time. If the storm proves powerful enough, the name of the hurricane can even be retired from the interface and never used again because of their severity. To compare, Hurricane Katrina was a recorded category 3 storm when it hit land, and it took years to heal the damages caused by the storm.

Sounds intense, right?

Hurricane Katrina pictured as it approached land in August 2005. (photopin.com)

Hurricane Season continues to prove its severity, and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria all made their appearance in the span of less than thirty days (Hurricane Harvey touching land August 25 and Hurricane Maria touching land September 20) with the cleanup taking around “ten years” according to theguardian.com for Harvey alone. We are currently halfway through the season, so parts of the nation are bracing themselves for storms that could appear in the next two months.

These hurricanes have all hit US territory, with Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas and Hurricane Irma hitting Florida. These two storms made history, as this was the first time two major hurricanes have hit the US in the last month, but with Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico in its entirety the history books may be rewritten again. Although it is too early in season to compare to previous years and not even halfway over, this season has proved to be extremely active, and a total of 13 hurricanes have been tracked and named although they have not touched land.

The science behind a hurricane contains two elements: warm water and winds that do not change speed or direction. While the topic is still being investigated, experts at National Geographic claim climate change could be to blame. With rising temperatures, water vapor evaporates from the sea surface, and reporter Emanuel notes that, “Water evaporates faster from a hot surface than a cold surface.” The rains that pair with a hurricane also parallel this idea, and “the heat built up in the sea surface allows the storm to take up more water vapor.” The peak intensity of a storm increases as temperatures rise, and shortens the amount of time it takes for them to form.

These storms are serious, and if we are not lucky they will continue to form as hurricane season rains on and affects the entire world. And if the temperature of the ocean continues to rise as suggested by current data, the intensity and frequency of the storms will also rise and leave more towns in ruins and at the mercy of nature’s hand.

On land damage courtesy of a category four storm. (photopin.com)

The names Harvey, Irma, and Maria will most likely be retired, as mentioned earlier, because of the lasting damage.

 

All media courtesy of Photopin.com

Editor's Note: This article is the perspective and opinion of the author and does not reflect the views of Her Campus at Cal Lutheran or Her Campus Media. Thank you.