Climate change plays a role in Ida’s intensity

Haley Gibbons, staff writer

Hurricane Ida first made landfall on Sunday, August 29, hitting at 11:55 AM as a Category 4 hurricane. According to Reuters, there have been around 107 deaths total over many states on or near the East Coast. This huge tropical storm has left around 600,000 without power and has caused about $50 million in damages to homes, businesses, and public transportation.

The Category 4 hurricane was unusually powerful, rivaling Louisiana’s most powerful storm ever, according to The Washington Post. The ocean water was unusually warm, incubating the storm while it grew more powerful. It grew quickly with seven feet of storm surge, 150 mile-per-hour winds, and torrential downpour. This incubation, occurring in the Gulf of Mexico allowed the originally, Category 1 storm to turn into the Category 4 hurricane in just 24 hours. 

The ocean water was 85 degrees Fahrenheit according to NPR. That temperature is hotter than average. Heat is a form of energy, and more energy in a hurricane leads to much faster wind speeds and stronger storm surges as seen in Ida.

Climate Scientist Jonathan Overpeck spoke to The Hill about how Ida’s rapid intensity is a big sign that climate change is to blame. The rising sea levels were the cause of the powerful storm surges, and the heat brought evaporation and precipitation, which just gives the hurricane more power. This abnormally hot water also increases the flood risk from Ida.

Scientists, like Overpeck, an atmospheric scientist named Kerry Emanuel, and a climatologist named John Neilson-Gammon seem to believe this is a trend people will need to get used to. This intensity is part of a larger pattern. Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Hurricane Michael in 2018, and Hurricane Laura in 2020 all intensified at a rapid pace, quicker than many others before them. This human-caused climate change has caused many factors which aided Ida in becoming more powerful. 

Both The Hill and The Washington Post state that the intensity of these tropical storms has increased drastically within the last 40 years. The latest climate report from the United Nations credits the use of fossil fuels and other human activities as the cause for this climate change-induced intensification.

If no solutions are made for climate change, the next tropical storms will be just as intense as Ida.