From Monday Aug. 24 to Thursday Aug. 27, the Gulf experienced two consecutive hurricanes, Marco and Laura. Marco’s potential damage subsided as it approached land, but
Laura’s progressively intensified, resulting in paramount devastation to southwest Louisiana.
Hurricane Laura cost Louisiana $20-30 billion in damages and resulted in 14-16 indirect fatalities. While Laura was not the first significantly intense storm, a common speculation is if human inhabitants are provoking the occurrence.
According to climate and weather specialists, climate change is a direct contributor.
Global warming is caused by the emission of CO2 gasses from vehicles, the burning of fossil fuels, and deforestation creating excess energy, 93% of which is absorbed by the ocean. The warmer, more energized waters are the direct cause of these intense storms such as Laura.
Brian Schubert, an associate professor in geosciences at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, summarizes what climate change could entail.
“(Weather data) such as rainfall, wind, and storm surges … you’re elevating all the basslines,” Schubert said.
Hurricane Laura had 150 mph winds and 18 to 20 foot storm surges, where most of the flooding came from. Hurricane Rita was considered a devastating storm to Louisiana and Texas when it made landfall in 2005. In comparison to Laura, however, Rita presented storm surges of only 15 feet, according to Hurricanes: Science and Society.
Nevertheless, clear data on the progression of climate change and how it has related to storms in the past is not always readily available.
“In terms of recording past storms and how they were affected by climate change, it is difficult to find records longer than 150 years ago,” Timothy Duex, an associate professor in geosciences at UL Lafayette, said. It wasn’t until 1960 when the world’s first successful weather satellite was created by NASA. It is difficult to determine weather patterns before this invention.
The impact humans have had on the planet is still considerable. The Environmental Protection Agency claims sea surface temperatures worldwide have increased by an average of 0.13 F per decade from 1901 to 2015. If this progression continues, the planet will continue to produce storms such as Hurricane Laura. Future storms have and will become more intense, rather than more frequent.
The biggest contribution students and young people can make, according to Schubert, is to vote for environmentally conscious candidates. He also mentioned the following measures the public could take.
“Change out your A/C and put in a more energy-efficient one. Another big one is driving, especially in Lafayette.” Transportation is now the largest source of carbon emissions in the country.
The common consensus between climate and weather specialists on global warming is: it’s complicated. Though many scientists acknowledge the routine phases the planet undergoes, the alarming human interference is undeniable.
In the future, hurricanes may not increase in frequency. However, because of the warming-induced energy within our oceans, storms we do see could continue to be as intense as Hurricane Laura.