The Science of Hurricanes By: Moira Metz

The 2017 hurricane season reached its peak this September, with an above-average number of thirteen hurricanes having raged through the Atlantic Ocean before end of the month. Most affected was Puerto Rico, which faced Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and now faces flooding, destruction, shortage of food, clean water, and medical aid, and lack of power throughout the whole island.

These hurricanes begin as named tropical storms formed over the warm waters of the Atlantic. As they grow more violent and destructive, they are established as hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey was a category 4 hurricane and Hurricanes Irma and Maria were both category 5 hurricanes. As for the comparison of these three, all of which took place during the span of one month, “Irma and Maria are pretty similar, size, strength, etc. the one that is different is Harvey,” says WLWT’s News 5 Today meteorologist Randi Rico. “That one was such a historic and devastating rain maker because it parked itself in one spot and spun. There was no driving force in the atmosphere to move it along like most storms do. So with the storm sitting on the edge of the Gulf and Texas it had a seemingly endless supply of waters to feed from and drop on the people of Houston and Beaumont.” Unsurprisingly, Texas is still recovering from the storms.

As for here in Cincinnati, there hasn’t been too much of a difference in our weather. Says Rico, “We had the cool day of rain thanks to Harvey… Irma brought some showers… at this point it will be nothing more than a run of the mill area of low pressure… and some rain. The one time that was not the case was the Hurricane Ike wind storm of 2008. I’d like to think that setup was a once in a lifetime occurrence for most of us.”

But even though we here up north, safe in our landlocked mainland, aren’t affected by these hurricanes, it doesn’t mean shouldn’t be very concerned for our fellow Americans and non-Americans in the Caribbean in the south. The United States was hit pretty bad, but islands like Puerto Rico are devastated. And not enough people have done much about it. Puerto Rico is completely without power, entire parts of the island are flooded, buildings are in ruins and the many citizens of the U.S. territory have been struggling to find clean water and enough food for themselves. Some described the aftermath as “apocalyptic,” and it’s easy to see why. Not to mention that the island had already been facing a horrible economic crisis before 2017’s hurricanes, and now the territory is in deeper debt, begging the U.S. government for aid which has been slow.

Though no single storm or natural disaster can be traced back to it directly, it’s important to understand why these hurricanes are becoming more and more intense over time: climate change. As 97% of the world’s climate scientists confirm, climate change—also called global warming—is a real condition the earth has undergone in which carbon dioxide is pumped the atmosphere at an alarming and ever-increasing rate. This CO2 continuously muddles the atmosphere, creating a “greenhouse” effect and raises the earth’s temperature. Not only does this make summer a little hotter and winter a little less snowy, it causes a chain reaction of events in climate worldwide (U.S Department of Energy). Besides its global warming aspect—the melting of the “North Pole” and extreme drought in California—climate change affects the weather, air quality, food abundance, animal populations, and so much more. It increases the probability of tornadoes, snowstorms, and especially hurricanes, and all of this because humanity isn’t paying attention to how we treat the earth, or it just isn’t caring. According to The New Yorker, in reporting the state of the Caribbean islands after the recent hurricanes, Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit declared, “Eden is broken…To deny climate change is to procrastinate while the earth sinks…While the big countries talk, the small island nations suffer. We need action and we need it now.”  


Works Cited

Meade, Natalie. “‘Eden Is Broken’: A Caribbean Leader Spotlights Climate Change.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 24 Sept. 2017,

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