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Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

Climate change exacerbates hurricanes by creating conditions better suited for them, resulting in a dramatic increase in the amount and severity of hurricanes. Hurricanes have tremendous impacts on communities, with the capacity to destroy entire cities or even countries, as seen in the Caribbean. Flooding from hurricanes results in billions of dollars in damages and impacts low-income and minority communities more because of a lack of resources and underdeveloped flood infrastructure.

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Kids Fight Climate Change Team

Dramatic Views of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station

While no single storm can be directly attributed to climate change, it exacerbates them all. A hurricane forms when warm moist air over warm water rises and is replaced by cooler air. However, cool air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air, so some of the moisture condenses and forms clouds, beginning the storm. As climate change increases global temperatures, particularly in equatorial regions where hurricanes form, water and air temperatures both increase, thereby intensifying and increasing hurricanes and tropical storms. Indeed, category 4-5 storms (the most intense storms) will increase in frequency by 29%. Storms with wind speeds greater than 145 miles per hour (234 km/h) will increase in frequency by 59%.

While these may seem like arbitrary numbers, they are vitally important. An increase in the intensity of hurricanes and the frequency of such hurricanes will result in these storms affecting more and more people. Across the world, hurricanes are the world's costliest weather disaster. Indeed, some hurricanes cost over $100 billion in damage; Hurricane Harvey in 2017, for example, cost $125 billion!

Hurricane damages stem from flooding, which is a major concern in coastal regions across the world, with effects reaching far inland. Floods indeed result in billions of dollars of damages, as discussed, and often disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. This is for primarily two reasons. First, low-income communities are less likely to have the money to relocate nor flood insurance, or even the ability to get transportation during an evacuation. Similarly, many minority and low-income communities are underdeveloped. As a result, they have poor infrastructure, which sustains heavier damages during a flood. Floods also have negative effects on both agriculture and human health.


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Image: Dramatic Views of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station From 9/12. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Flickr, September 12, 2018.

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