Questions about Hurricanes and Climate

First, it is wonderful to hear that our families at GCS are safe and that we can be together again on Monday.    As I read the news and listened to statements made by city officials and political leaders, I imagined that many kids had questions about how this storm relates to global warming and climate change.

Can a storm be blamed on climate change?  It must be frustrating to hear adults say, “yes and no.”  As you may have already heard, it’s complicated!  Remember that climate is a “big picture” description of how an ecosystem works, and is measured over long periods of time.  ”Weather,” including storms and heat waves, are things that happen day-to-day.  However, changes in weather patterns do indicate changes in climate.  Scientists often say that they can’t answer questions about individual storms because all the “pieces of the pattern” for climate have not yet been observed.  They do say, however, that the pattern, so far, stongly suggests climate change is happening.

Some weather and temperature patterns, like the surface ocean temperatures, and the number of days we have “heat wave” conditions, are strongly associated with a change in climate.  Other patterns, like storms, are less easy to pin down.  A warming planet should tend to have bigger, wetter, and longer -lasting storms.   Not necessarily more hurricanes, however.    Some scientists have said that Sandy’s severity can be attributed to climate change, thanks to the changes we’ve seen this season in ocean temperatures, and the loss of arctic sea ice.  I’m sure the storm will be studied extensively.

In the mean time, remember that with or without storms, NYC could be a much more sustainable city.  We could build better green buildings, have more effective waste disposal systems, protect our rivers and waterways, and make better choices in how we use natural resources.  Being “green” doesn’t require giant climate change or global warming problems to be a good idea!  And being greener could make our recovery less difficult, and vulnerability to disaster lower. Additionally, climate change’s role in the storm is not in dispute, rather, the degree of its’ contribution.

Hurricane Facts

For those of you on the Green Team looking for places to get involved in environmental clean up, please see these links.

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