Climate change intensifies recent natural disasters

Audrey William, Staff Reporter

The intensity and frequency of the wildfires that have rampaged across the West Coast of the United States, as well as the hurricanes that have been striking the Atlantic coasts are both the results of climate change. They have damaged the country in numerous ways, ruining peoples’ homes, costing affected states billions, and taking irreplaceable lives. 

According to a recent study led by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher James P. Kossin, an analysis of satellite images from 1979-2017 revealed that global warming increases the chances that a tropical cyclone will intensify to or beyond Category 3. The study supports long-standing theories that climate change is increasing the intensity of hurricanes. 

The California wildfires have torn through the West Coast, spreading to Oregon and Washington. They were mainly started due to a smoke-emitting pyrotechnic device used during a gender reveal party at El Dorado Ranch Park. Other causes include power lines that spark and set fire to grass or trees and quickly spread. The hot climate and dry lightning storms also play a large factor in igniting flames. Scientists say that a “record-shattering” heat wave was reported this year, resulting in more unstable weather conditions, including extreme droughts, dry air, heavy rains and increased intensity and regularity of fires. 

“California is America in fast forward,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a news briefing. “What we’re experiencing right now is coming to communities all across the country”.

Not only have the fires damaged billions of dollars in property and destroyed ecosystems, but they also have a dangerous effect on those who are in contact with the smoke. Smoke inhalation can cause a variety of health problems, such as asthma-related illnesses, chronic respiratory and cardiovascular issues and premature death. The risks of burns and falling debris have also impeded many people’s ability to go to work.

President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off federal funding to California because of his accusations that the wildfires have resulted from Democrat Governor Newsom “not cleaning [the] forests”.

“Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” Trump said in a statement. 

In addition to the razing wildfires, the Atlantic has been experiencing almost double the expected number of hurricanes that usually hit the East Coast during storm season this year. The only part of the Atlantic Coast that has not yet been hit is the west coast of Florida, although experts say that October is the prime month for tropical storms in that area. 

Scientists have questioned whether the source of the various hurricanes is La Niña, the cooling of the western tropical Pacific. However, they have come to the conclusion that most of these hurricanes were actually engulfed in monsoon circulations, which have drastically intensified due to warmer waters and hotter airs, which experts think may be the cause of the high activity. More hurricanes have been recorded in 2020 than any other year, even the devastating year of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, taking more than 1,800 lives. 

“Every year the devastating impacts of climate change—in billions of dollars in damage, in immeasurable loss of lives and livelihoods—sets new records of destruction in big cities, small towns, on coastlines, and farmlands across the country,” Former Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden wrote in a statement.

Most of the tropical and subtropical Atlantic waters and the Gulf of Mexico has been much hotter than average, and it’s been causing more storms even in unexpected places. For example, tropical storm Alpha landed in Portugal, an abnormal area that had warmer than usual waters. Climatologists say that human-generated greenhouse gases play a huge factor in the heating of the earth, and through climate change comes stronger storms with rapid intensification and much heavier rains that cause more damage.

“If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?” Biden said at a rally in Wilmington, Delaware. “If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater?”