Sandy, the hurricane that appears set to pummel the East Coast, promises a historic potential for damage and a terrifying look at what may be in store for us in a post-climate change world — ever more frequent assaults of not-so-natural origin.
Watching Sandy on her careening path toward the Eastern Seaboard scares me more than it would have 15 months ago. That’s because my home state took the brunt of Irene, last year’s “sprawling,” “surly,” “record-breaking” Atlantic storm. I know now exactly how much power a warm sea can contain and how far that pain can spread.
And in the process, feeling that fear, I begin to sense what the future may be like, as more and more of the world finds itself facing ever-more-frequent assaults from the amped-up forces of the not-so-natural world.
"But we can see that climate change is playing a role in setting the context for these storms," Mann continued, "in particular the record levels of North Atlantic ocean warmth that is available to feed these storms with energy and moisture."
Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the USA National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the world's foremost experts on changes to global energy and water cycles, suggested in an email message that Hurricane Sandy represents the "new normal."
"Climate change is changing the weather," Trenberth said. "The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change. The oceans are warmer and the atmosphere above the oceans is warmer and wetter. This new normal changes the environment for all storms and makes them more intense and with much more precipitation."