Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wildfires & Hurricanes: Two Devastating Side Effects of A Warming Planet

Wildfires are burning everywhere it seems right now--especially everywhere west of the Rockies. At least that's how it feels when you go to the U.S. Wildfire Map or the Global Forest Watch Map. Glowing orange skies in California and reports for friends in Colorado and Oregon are not comforting. I'd imagine their air quality isn't comforting to them either! As if we don't have enough reasons to wear masks with Covid 19!

The wildfires in the West Coast with overly-dry land is about as comforting as hitting the peak of hurricane season on September 10th when there were there were 7 active systems in the Atlantic Ocean. Only 2 were named at the time, though the other 5 had potential of moving beyond "tropical disturbances." Thus far for the 2020 Hurricane system, at this writing we had hit 17 named storms. Annual average is 11-12 storms. There's even a potential (if we keep going this year) of hitting Hurricane or Tropical Storm Vicky (yours truly, though spelled differently). Of course, if we judge 2020 by memes, we're of course destined to get lucky and land there! There's some other speculation that we will use up the 21 storm-slated names, causing us to have to use the Greek alphabet. The only other time we had to do that was in 2005.

Hurricanes & wildfires are two of the major effects of climate change and warming global temperatures. 

For fires, the problem is visible in this visual (from the Union of Concerned Scientist "Infographic: Wilfires & Climate Change: Visualizing the Connection in 5 Sets of Photos & Charts"):

The Union of Concerned Scientists also have some thoughts on hurricanes in their "Hurricanes & Climate Change" report published July 16, 2008 and updated June 25, 2019. Factors that have intensified hurricanes with time include:
  • rising ocean temperatures
  • rising sea levels
  • increased melting of ice-coverage over land
All of which create greater coastal storm surges, causing water to go further inland. Greater population density over time in coastal areas doesn't help.... especially with approx. 40% of the U.S. population living in these coastal areas. 

When you look at the United States map under the layer of impact of both wildfires and hurricanes, we're at a great environmental impact. With our bandwidth not only stretched but maxed right now in 2020 with the pandemic, environmental issues seem to slip to the bottom of the list. One could argue that is really doing us a large disservice--especially as Covid 19, wildfires, and hurricanes may potentially all be vying for FEMA money (Federal Emergency Management Agency) down the line.

If 2020 has shown us anything, it's that you never know what lies ahead. Here's hoping that we have already seen the worst!

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