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Do Now #50: Climate Change and Extreme Weather

| November 14, 2012 | 6 Comments
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Photo by NOAA/NASA GOES Project


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Do Now

What role do you think climate change played in Hurricane Sandy?

Introduction

During the last few days of October 2012, Hurricane Sandy brought heavy rains, tropical-storm-force winds, and record storm surges to much of the East Coast. This resulted in severe flooding, loss of power for millions of people, and the destruction of numerous homes, buildings and other structures in New York, New Jersey and other eastern states. The total economic damage by the storm is estimated to be $30-50 billion.

Scientists say that climate change has led to an average global rise in sea level of about eight inches over the past century. Expansion of the ocean water (from warming) and the melting of land-based ice are the two major reasons for the rise. A higher sea level means that storm surges become a bigger problem, causing more damage to coastal communities. Ocean water is able to reach further inland, leading to increased flooding, loss of life and widespread power outages, as witnessed during Hurricane Sandy.

Warm ocean water is a key factor in the occurrence of hurricanes. Hurricanes get their energy from the warm, moist air over ocean waters near the equator. Climate change has led to an average increase in the temperature of the oceans, due to a rise in heat-trapping greenhouse gases. According to the New York Times, several scientists said that during the last week in October, when Hurricane Sandy occurred, parts of the western Atlantic Ocean were as much as five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, which could have increased the intensity of the hurricane.

There is a lot that climate scientists still don’t know about the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, and major rain and snow storms. And although these weather events have been happening for years, research into whether and how much climate change has been making them worse will be a top scientific priority in the decades to come. Check out the resources below for three scientists’ viewpoints on climate change and Hurricane Sandy.

Resources

NPR segment Sandy Raises Questions About Climate And The Future – Oct. 31, 2012
If you ask climate scientist Radley Horton, it’s difficult to say that Hurricane Sandy was directly caused by climate change, but he sees strong connections between the two. Horton is a research scientist at The Earth Institute at Columbia University.


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with@KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

NPR Science Friday’s segment Sandy’s CT Scan, and Other Vital Images – Nov. 2, 2012
Owen Kelley, a research scientist at NASA Goddard, works with data from the TRMM satellite to image the insides of storms. TRMM looked into the eye of Sandy the day before it made landfall and saw something surprising. Satellites also took snapshots of Sandy. J. Marshall Shepherd, president-elect of the American Meteorological Society and the director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia, explains some of Sandy’s unusual features.

NPR segment Is Climate Change Responsible For Sandy? – Oct. 31, 2012
To what extent was climate change behind the formation of the superstorm Sandy? Did it make the storm worse than it otherwise would have been? Robert Siegel puts these questions to Martin Hoerling, research meteorologist at NOAA’s Earth Systems Laboratory.

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Category: 6 -12 Science, Do Now, Do Now: Science, Science

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About the Author ()

Andrea is the Science Education Manager for KQED. She joined KQED in 2007 to coordinate education and outreach for the public television series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Between working on Ocean Adventures and joining the QUEST team, she developed the educational resources for the 4-hour documentary Saving the Bay. Andrea graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Environmental Science and earned her M.A. in Teaching and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. Before arriving at KQED, she taught, developed, and managed marine science and environmental education programs in Aspen, Catalina Island and the Bay Area.
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  • mememine69

    Climate crisis is real all right, really not a crisis and just a new Reefer Madness.
    *In all of the debates Obama hadn’t planned to mention climate change once.
    *Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.
    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.
    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.
    *Canada’s voters had already killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially you fear mongers and the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).
    Meanwhile, the entire world of SCIENCE, lazy copy and paste news editors and obedient journalists, had condemned our kids to the greenhouse gas ovens of an exaggerated “crisis” and had allowed bank-funded and corporate-run “CARBON TRADING STOCK MARKETS” to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 26 years of insane attempts at climate CONTROL.

  • mememine69

    Climate crisis is real all right, really not a crisis and just a new Reefer Madness.
    *In all of the debates Obama hadn’t planned to mention climate change once.
    *Obama has not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses.
    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.
    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.
    *Canada’s voters had already killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially you fear mongers and the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).
    Meanwhile, the entire world of SCIENCE, lazy copy and paste news editors and obedient journalists, had condemned our kids to the greenhouse gas ovens of an exaggerated “crisis” and had allowed bank-funded and corporate-run “CARBON TRADING STOCK MARKETS” to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 26 years of insane attempts at climate CONTROL.

  • Sarah Parker

    @KQEDEDSPACE I believe that climate change is a factor in why hurricane sandy was so disastrous however, it can not be credited for why it happened. Hurricanes and storms happen all the time but i think this one got so out of hand partly because the changes in climate have climaxed the storm. it could’ve also been that this storm just had all the perfect variables to make it so bad, having nothing to do with climate change.#KQEDDONOW

  • Sarah Parker

    @KQEDEDSPACE I believe that climate change is a factor in why hurricane sandy was so disastrous however, it can not be credited for why it happened. Hurricanes and storms happen all the time but i think this one got so out of hand partly because the changes in climate have climaxed the storm. it could’ve also been that this storm just had all the perfect variables to make it so bad, having nothing to do with climate change.#KQEDDONOW