On Sunday, August 29th, Hurricane Ida made landfall in South Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. Not only was Ida one of the most powerful storms to hit the United States in documented history, Ida was the strongest storm to hit Louisiana since the 1850s and made landfall on the 16th anniversary of the infamous Hurricane Katrina. In merely 24 hours, Hurricane Ida strengthened from a category 1 hurricane to a category 4, which only added to the devastation as so many had so little time to prepare.
How did Hurricane Ida intensify so rapidly and to such an extent right before making landfall? Climate change.
“In about 24 hours, [Hurricane Ida] jumped from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm as it moved over abnormally hot water in the Gulf of Mexico. The ocean was the temperature of bathwater — about 85 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s a few degrees hotter than average, according to measurements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The extra heat acted as fuel for the storm. Heat is energy, and hurricanes with more energy have faster wind speeds and larger storm surges. As the Earth heats up, rapidly intensifying major hurricanes such as Ida are more likely to occur, scientists say.”
“Abnormally hot water also increases flood risk from hurricanes. Hurricanes suck up moisture as they form over the water and then dump that moisture as rain. The hotter the water — and the hotter the air — the more water vapor gets sucked up.”
The Gulf Coast is no stranger to intense hurricanes that develop quickly. But this is different; over the past few years, we have experienced storms like Harvey, Michael, and Laura, all of which gained strength at increasingly accelerated rates before making landfall. Now, we add Hurricane Ida to this growing list. These hurricanes are extremely dangerous, giving people less time to prepare and evacuate. As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, these storms will become more intense and more frequent according to the latest IPCC report. So, what does that mean for Louisianans? It means that we can expect more hurricanes like Hurricane Ida, Harvey, Michael, and Laura, and likely, hurricanes even stronger than those. It means that this is our new climate reality.
For a link to the full article: http://www.npr.org/2021/08/30/1032442544/how-climate-change-is-fueling-hurricanes-like-ida
-Olivia Graham, Editor-in-chief