The New Republic - August 30, 2021
... When the skies have cleared and the damage has been assessed, Hurricane Ida will stand almost peerless among hurricanes in the breadth and depth of its devastation. In every meaningful sense, it was the perfect storm of the climate change era—not just in terms of meteorology but also in terms of geography, history, and victimology. This storm brings the climate crisis full circle, unleashing the wrath of a world warmed by fossil fuels on the very state that is the site of some of the fossil fuel industry’s greatest crimes.
Granted, you might not know this from watching cable news. General Russell Honoré, the retired commander who steered the military’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, told the Weather Channel just before Ida made landfall that “anything built by man can be destroyed by Mother Nature”—as if Mother Nature alone were to blame for this particular storm.
It’s true that the Gulf Coast has long attracted epochal hurricanes: The Last Island hurricane ravaged the state’s coast in 1856, and the devastating Hurricane Camille traced almost the same path as Ida in 1969. Both of these storms struck before significant global heating had gotten underway. But while Ida may recall those ancient storms, things are different now. Louisiana is a different place, and Mother Nature behaves in a different way. It is impossible to talk about Ida without talking about the climate crisis.
The first way Ida reflects climate change is in its stunning growth trajectory, which horrified many weather experts well before it made landfall. Ida exhibited what is known as “rapid intensification.” When a tropical cyclone passes over warm water, the surface energy of the water lifts up into the vortex and acts as fuel for the storm. The warmer and deeper the water, the faster the storm grows and the more powerful its peak winds become.
As Hurricane Ida approached the Gulf Coast, it passed over a deep eddy of water that registered a temperature of almost 90 degrees. The Gulf of Mexico is very complex, and it’s hard to say with certainty why any part of it is hot at any given time, but more than 90 percent of anthropogenic warming has been absorbed by the oceans, and the process of planetary heating makes high sea-surface temperatures like the ones we are observing now much more likely. The past few years have seen an unprecedented spate of storms that display the so-called rapid intensification phenomenon: First Irma obliterated the Keys in 2017, then Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle in 2018, and then last year Hurricane Laura devastated the western Louisiana city of Lake Charles. ...
Read full report at The New Republic