The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is far ahead of record pace, with this year seeing 14 storms being named much earlier than any other year on record.
Laura, one of those storms, is now a major hurricane. And it’s the latest extreme weather event boosted by climate change. A recent study found that a run-of-the-mill hurricane now has a 30% greater chance of strengthening to a major hurricane — a Category 3, 4 or 5 — than it did in the 1970s because of warming waters due to human-caused climate change.
This year’s record-setting hurricane season combined with a historic heat wave, sprawling wildfires in the West and the massivethat tore through the middle of the nation this summer resemble the chaotic climate future scientists have been warning us about for decades — only it’s happening right now.
“This current stretch of natural catastrophe events in the United States are essentially a snapshot of what scientists and emergency managers have long feared,” said meteorologist Steven Bowen, head of Catastrophe Insight at AON, an international risk mitigation firm.
To be sure, these events are not all related to each other, but the one thing they do have in common is that climate change makes each one more likely. The simple explanation is that there’s more energy in the system and that energy is expended in the form of more extreme heat, fire, wind and rain.
Michael Mann, a professor of Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University, has for years sounded the alarm about the acceleration of human-caused climate change, but even he is somewhat surprised at the current pace.
“In many respects, the impacts are playing out faster and with greater severity than we predicted,” he said.