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Sierra Daily

Oct 29, 2012

Climate AND Weather

Hurricane sign iStock_000003649812XSmall choicegraphxAs Hurricane Sandy unleashes its fury on the Eastern Seaboard, the question over a changing climate’s role in specific weather events rises with it, as noted by my colleague Paul Rauber on Friday. Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told LiveScience, "The climate influences…are what we might call the 'new normal,' the changed environment this storm is operating in."

Trenberth goes on in more detail at the university and research comment site, The Conversation:

“The sea surface temperatures along the Atlantic coast have been running at over 3C above normal for a region extending 800km off shore all the way from Florida to Canada. Global warming contributes 0.6C to this. With every degree C, the water holding of the atmosphere goes up 7%, and the moisture provides fuel for the tropical storm, increases its intensity, and magnifies the rainfall by double that amount compared with normal conditions.

Global climate change has contributed to the higher sea surface and ocean temperatures, and a warmer and moister atmosphere, and its effects are in the range of 5 to 10%. Natural variability and weather has provided the perhaps optimal conditions of a hurricane running into extra-tropical conditions to make for a huge intense storm, enhanced by global warming influences.”

If you’re wondering why the U.S. sits on the climate-change sidelines, you can’t get a better primer than by watching Frontline’s Climate of Doubt, a compelling look at how climate skeptics have stalled progress on global warming policy despite overwhelming scientific consensus

Image by iStock/choicegraphx.

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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