The Norman Transcript


November 11, 2012

Sandy latest warning that climate change must be addressed



The influence of global warming can be seen in the circumstances that have come together to make Sandy one of the most destructive storms on record. This link has been made by Dr. Jennifer Francis, research professor at the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University.

“Warm ocean temperature is one of the main ingredients necessary for tropical storms to form and survive, so the fact that the oceans, in general, are warming and that sea-surface temperatures are now at an all-time record high off northeast North America suggests that any late-forming storms that move up this way, like Sandy, should be able to survive longer and track farther northward,” Francis said.

A rapidly warming Arctic, punctuated by record loss of sea ice this year, also has weakened the jet stream’s west winds in the Northern Hemisphere, creating waves that go farther north and south, Francis said: “As those waves get larger, they tend to move more slowly, which means the weather associated with them also moves more slowly ... leading to increased chances of the types of extreme weather associated with ‘stuck’ weather patterns.”

In other words, global warming puts more energy into these storms by warming the oceans. And September had the second highest global ocean temperatures on record.

Global warming in general has put our climate on “steroids,” making disasters like Sandy more likely to happen. We have already seen this in Oklahoma with a record number of weather-related disasters last summer. The federal crop insurance payments — again, taxpayer dollars — for last year were at record levels because of the worst drought in 50 years across two-thirds of the nation.

“This is a wake-up call for the next Congress to pass meaningful climate legislation,” said Mark Reynolds, Citizens Climate Lobby director.

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