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Climate's Effect on Hurricane Idalia

What was initially a disturbance off of the Caribbean sea has now caused over $10 billion in damage. With landfall at 125 mph and storm surge levels exceeding eight feet, Hurricane Idalia has greatly impacted Florida. 1,700 homes have been damaged by widespread flooding, power outages, and heavy winds. In the beginning, Idalia was a category 3 storm, but it is now considered a billion dollar storm, adding to the $56.7 billion in recovery costs alone. Although it did not cause the level of catastrophe Hurricane Ian did, both hurricanes followed the same path. Idalia continues to impact Florida, Georgia, and parts of the Carolinas.

Some believe that the climate plays a huge role in hurricanes’ impacts. Due to the ocean’s absorption of CO2 and heat, the ocean has increased in temperature over the years. Warm areas of the ocean accelerate storms and torrential rainfalls, as warmer conditions are more ideal for hurricanes. Over the years, data has shown that although the frequency of hurricanes has reduced, the intensity has not. Instead, the intensity has almost doubled, as observed by climate scientist Adam Sobel. Those who experienced Hurricane Idalia fought through heavy rain-fall, quantitatively similar to the rain of both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane forecasters predict that there could be up to 23 new tropical storms and hurricanes within the 2023 season itself. Although Florida legislation has accounted for the fact that the climate plays a huge role in the hurricane season and intensity, officials are also saying that it is important to work towards recovery rather than trying to point fingers. In a public statement, Florida’s governor said it is important not to blame anyone, as electing any specific political party would not immediately end the effects of global warming. Florida is using the support system they have in place, claiming that they are prepared to face natural disasters and support their community in any way possible.

NASA image of hurricane
Satellite image by NASA of a hurricane.

The Red Cross, with a team of over a thousand people, has deployed volunteers to help various areas impacted by the hurricane. They are working to provide shelter, hundreds of thousands of snacks and meals, and even staying overnight with those in need. Compared to last year, they have been needed to assist in areas of disaster twice as frequently, according to their website. The Red Cross is also tracking other potential storms, such as Hurricane Lee. If it landfalls, Lee could potentially become another billion dollar storm, adding to the costs of recovery efforts for Hawaii’s wildfires and Hurricane Idalia.

There are daily opportunities to advocate in our communities towards environment-friendly habits, as they would have lasting effects in states like Florida and Hawaii. In the meantime, the Red Cross is also accepting donations to help in their efforts.

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