Meteorologists have for the most part been ducking the topic of global warming in relation to Hurricane Sandy in the same way that biologists try to steer clear of the subject of animal sentience or the AMA avoids any mention of the link between the consumption of animal products and the increased rate of heart disease, diabetes and cancers in this country.
History’s greatest scientists have all been free-thinkers, unafraid of pushing the limits of human understanding. But it seems most out there today are content in their mediocrity—let’s not have anything groundbreaking or earthshattering interfere with business as usual, interrupt the flow of funding or threaten a precious reputation.
Yet, a few scientists are beginning to tip-toe gingerly into the fray by tentatively linking “Superstorm” Sandy to the effects of the unprecedented anthropogenic increase of carbon in the atmosphere and the subsequent weather extremes we’ve been seeing in recent decades.
According to an October 30th blog post in Scientific American, “Scientists have long taken a cautious stance, but more are starting to drop the caveat and link climate change directly to intense storms and other extreme weather events, such as the warm 2012 winter in the eastern U.S. and the frigid one in Europe at the same time. They are emboldened because researchers have gotten very good in the past decade at determining what affects the variables that create big storms.”
In answer to just how Hurricane Sandy was intensified by global warming, Scientific American explains: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.”
Additionally, climate scientists, such as Charles Greene at Cornell University, have recently shown that as more Arctic sea ice melts in the summer—because of global warming—the Jet Stream is more likely to take the kind of big southward dip in the U.S., Canada and the Atlantic that occurred during hurricane Sandy.
The term, “global warming,” adds to the confusion of naysayers who point to wintertime cold temperatures and freak blizzards as “proof” that the Earth is not really getting warmer. A clearer name for the contentious phenomenon would be “atmospheric warming” or “ocean warming,” since that’s what’s really happening and because that’s scientifically indisputable. Warming ocean temperatures are responsible for the climate changes affecting us all on the land, but of course, one overly-successful species, who shall remain nameless (okay, it’s Homo sapiens), is ultimately responsible for heating up the atmosphere and the oceans to begin with.
Humans can no longer plead ignorance. Back in 2007 a Scientific American article by Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wrote an article titled, “Warmer Oceans, Stronger Hurricanes.” He concluded that although the number of Atlantic hurricanes each year might not rise, the strength of them would. And according to Munich Re, one of the world’s largest insurance firms, “Climate change particularly affects formation of heat-waves, droughts, intense precipitation events, and in the long run most probably also tropical cyclone intensity.”
Oliver Stone, the acclaimed writer/director of pioneering films such as Platoon, JFK, Nixon, and W, called Sandy “punishment for Obama and Romney ignoring climate change.” In an interview with HuffPost Live on Tuesday, the filmmaker expressed dismay that neither presidential candidate has been willing to talk about global warming, either before or after the superstorm that ravaged the entire East Coast and beyond. Stone hopes the storm’s silver lining is that President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, pull a U-turn on climate change.
“I was a little disappointed at the third debate when neither of them talked about climate control and the nature of the situation on earth,” Stone said. “I think there’s a kind of a weird statement coming right after it. This is a punishment. Mother Nature cannot be ignored.”