Hurricane Sandy

Image courtesy of Charlie Walker on Flickr.

Hurricane Sandy has left millions of Americans without access to food, power, transportation, and other essential services. What does this extreme weather event have to do with climate change? Was the hurricane an effect of global warming? Many people have been asking these questions, only to fear that Hurricane Sandy is just a small glimpse of the type of weather we will see more frequently, and more intensely, in the future.

Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, claims that humans may be responsible for 5 to 10 percent of extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy. That means that 90 to 95 percent of these events are due to natural variability. The extent of human contribution to these storms may appear small now, but it is projected that human influence on climate change and extreme weather events will only increase with time.

How are scientists proposing this can happen?  It is believed that global warming is “setting the table” for worse weather conditions. Global warming is setting the conditions that perpetuate these storms by increasing ocean temperatures and creating moister air conditions. In effect, as human influence on global warming continues, our weather occurrences will be like a snowball rolling down a snowy slope, they will start small but will get bigger and bigger as the necessary ingredients become more and more available.

Now the question is, how many tragic and destructive weather events is it going to take before politicians recognize that climate change is a reality? And even if a hurricane tears down their own houses, will they do what they can to try to prevent it from happening again, for themselves and others?