In late November, a storm in the Bering sea brought winds of over 90 mph and wave heights of nearly 53 feet. What was really interesting about this storm is how rapidly it intensified. The intensification met the bombogenesis criteria, an atmospheric drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours. But this storm went beyond that 24 millibar drop.
In just 24 hours, it dropped from 1002 milllibars to 947 millibars, a drop of 55 millibars. Then it dropped another 3 millibars, which made it the strongest storm on the planet at this time. Essentially, this story was the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.
The location of this system and its rapid intensification caused me to wonder if this storm was an anomaly, perhaps due to climate change, or if these storms happen every winter around the Aleutians.
According to NASA’s website Earth Observatory, “The Bering Sea area has hosted some notable storms in recent years, such as the low pressure system that slammed into Nome, Alaska, on November 8 and 9, 2011, with wind gusts up to 74 knots (85 miles per hour). Exactly three years later in 2014, Alaskans braced for another storm that was expected to intensify into the strongest low-pressure systems ever recorded in the Bering Sea.”
That storm, the remnants of Category 5 Super Typhoon Nuri, reached 924 millibars, which set a record for an extratropical storm in the Pacific Ocean. For reference, Hurricane Katrina made landfall at 920 millibars.
So has climate change made storms like these more powerful? Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central, a nonprofit group that studies climate change, says that climate change makes bad storms like Harvey, Irma, and Maria even worse. “And in the case of a really bad storm, climate change can make it totally disastrous or catastrophic.”
But Scott Pruett, a climate change denier and head of the EPA, didn’t want to talk about climate change in the aftermath of this year’s hurricane season. His mantra – that now wasn’t the time to talk about it – became that of the entire trump administration.
“The most dangerous myth that we have bought into as a society is not the myth that climate isn’t changing or that humans aren’t responsible,” said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. “It’s the myth that ‘It doesn’t matter to me.’”
So here we are, the hurricane season officially over (on November 30), the ferocity of this year’s hurricanes fading in memory here in Florida – but not in Puerto Rico.
Nearly two months after Maria slammed into the island with 155 mph winds, about half the island is still without electrical power. Take a look at these statistics to see how 2017’s hurricane season weighed in. Hint: it was the most expensive year ever in terms of damage $202.6 BILLION in damages.
So, the question becomes: what magnitude of a disaster will it take to convince climate change deniers that yes, we humans leave a mighty big footprint.