The 2005 tropical storm season, particularly in the Atlantic, was the most intense on record. Although Katrina will probably be remembered as the grim champion of hurricanes that have made destructive landfall in the US, there were numerous other storms that year as well: in the Atlantic alone in addition to Katrina we had hurricanes Dennis, Emily, Rita and Wilma. Four of these storms reached Category 5, the most powerful and destructive on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Together these nightmare storms killed 3,865 people–more than the number that died on September 11–and did $130 billion worth of damage. What made that year so destructive? No one’s sure, but global warming is a good hunch. Since the effects of climate change have become better understood, climatologists have been predicting an increase in the number and intensity of severe weather events such as blizzards and hurricanes. Global warming increases evaporation, which in turn increases precipitation; also, altered temperature patterns of the world’s oceans have a ripple effect that can often manifest itself in conditions good for breeding large storms. While 2005 is the current record-holder, I would not be surprised if another year in the near future results in even more destructive storms. Until the effects of climate change are seriously addressed, unfortunately I think storms like Katrina and Rita will become more and more common.
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