Climate change and Hurricanes

Hurricane Dorian as seen from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite. Photo credit:

Josh Shepherd, Staff Reporter

As the 2019 hurricane season continues to bear down upon the Atlantic Ocean, it is becoming increasingly evident that something is wrong. Something in nature has gone terribly awry and a flood of hurricanes – not only growing in number but also intensity and size – are the price to pay for it. The past three weeks saw Hurricane Dorian carve a category five path of devastation through the West Indies, taking with it about sixty lives and several billion dollars worth of damage. The hurricane was also noted to be tied for first (with the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935) as being the strongest Atlantic hurricane to make landfall, with sustained wind speeds of 185 mph. Similarly, 2017’s Hurricane Irma places third on that record with 180 mph winds and the same year’s Hurricane Maria holds the number nine spot, with 165. Although climate change and hurricanes have existed for billions of years, human activity has threatened the natural processes that govern them and Earth’s environment is now at stake.

An example of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Photo credit: Scott Olsen, Getty Images.

Climate change is a normal part of Earth’s processes. There are five parts to the climate system that interact to create the effects of climate change, which are the atmosphere – the gases that surround the earth, the biosphere – all life on Earth, the lithosphere – Earth’s crust and mantle, the cryosphere – all of Earth’s ice, and the hydrosphere – or all water on Earth’s surface.

Much of the energy that drives the climate system comes from the sun, and a smaller amount is geothermal. Over thousands of years, it is typical that the temperature rises and falls a certain amount. Ice ages follow periods of warming, followed by an ice age, so on and so forth. However, this most recent bout of warming has been exacerbated by an influx of carbon dioxide, which has been created mostly as a product of human activity.

In the past 200 years or so, CO2 levels have increased by about 25%, and that means that what usually would have been a simple warming period thousands of years ago has now become something much stronger and much worse. “It started mainly with the Industrial Revolution with the rise of factories,” said Mrs. Pepper, science teacher. “The problem is, with the Industrial Revolution, came the mining of fossil fuels.” It is primarily because of these fossil fuels that temperatures are climbing well beyond their natural spectrum and then some. Ice caps are melting and ocean levels are slowly rising but at a rapidly increasing pace. Species are dying. Florida is sinking.

Some might see drastic climate change as normal; as if this bout of climate change is not a problem. Others may see the dilemma of climate change as a conundrum that cannot be helped. However, it should be made clear that what is happening today is the farthest thing from normal and that a lot can be done. Two clubs which do their part in combating climate change are Key Club and Ocean Awareness Club. While Key Club does not directly aim to reverse climate change, many of the activities the club partakes in including picking up litter and recycling do help in the fight against it. Ocean Awareness Club, on the other hand, specifically aims to ensure the protection of local marine habitats. Their activities include beach clean-ups, as well as traveling to Mote Marine and local aquatic habitats in order to learn more about the environment. See coach Mills to join Ocean Awareness Club, or Mrs. Hamilton to join Key Club.

Tesla’s Model S is an example of a low-emission vehicle. Photo credit:

Outside of school, there is even more that can be done, including planting trees, picking up litter, recycling, driving vehicles that give off reduced emissions or simply driving less, growing your own food, writing to a senator or mayor or other local representative about the problem, etc.

“It’s going to take a global effort to change it, and it’s gonna have to be dramatic,” said Mrs. Pepper.