In recent days, at least one letter writer has opined that hurricanes have nothing to do with global warming and climate change. That notion, however, is at odds with basic science.

Hurricanes and other tropical storms do form naturally, and have undoubtedly done so for eons. Their behavior, and their severity, however, are impacted by global warming; three of the most obvious impacts are as follows.

n First, the average temperature at the Earth’s surface has risen approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century, with much greater increases in the Arctic.

That might not seem very significant, but to a climatologist, it represents an enormous increase, and has accelerated the melting of glaciers, worldwide, and the flow of fresh water into the oceans. The resultant sea level rise contributes to the storm surges of tropical storms.

n Second, water expands as it warms, and this expansion also contributes to rising sea levels and corresponding increases in storm surges. Over the course of the past hundred years, the average rise in ocean levels is about 8 inches, and as high as 12 inches in the Gulf of Mexico.

n Third, rising ocean temperatures in the tropical latitudes have increased rates of evaporation of sea water into the atmosphere. When water vapor condenses after exposure to the colder temperatures of the upper atmosphere, a tremendous amount of energy is released. This release of energy drives the creation of wind and other storm components, and is multiplied by the increased evaporation of sea water.

It takes a climatologist with specialized training to account for the myriad details and complexities of storm events, but basic science can explain the general phenomena.

Joe Hardy

Wells