Atmospheric disturbances are changes in the natural state of the atmosphere that affect the surface and may indicate severe weather. Storms, secondary circulations, cyclones and anti-cyclones, tropical disturbances, thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and snowstorms are examples of atmospheric disturbances. “A hurricane is a severe, tropical cyclone with winds greater than 64 knots, usually involving heavy rain and destructive storms,” according to Smith (2012). This paper examines a news article written by Brad Plumer and published in The New York Times on September 8, 2017, in which he explains how hurricane Irma grew to be so large and destructive. Hurricane Irma and atmospheric disturbances are linked because hurricanes are an example of atmospheric disturbances and the factors that fuelled the hurricane to be more destructive and huge rests on understanding atmospheric disturbances. Hurricane Irma was an extremely powerful hurricane, the strongest observed in the Atlantic since hurricane Wilma in 2005. A surge in atmospheric disturbances caused by climate change and other factors has seen a rise in the intensity of hurricanes. Two category five and two category four hurricanes were recorded in the two months with huge destruction of property worth billions and losses of lives.
Hurricanes are the largest and most destructive storms on earth and last almost two weeks (10-14 days). Hurricanes are formed from tropical disturbances that include thunderstorms. The occurrence of a hurricane requires tropical disturbances occurring 500 kilometers from the equator, ocean temperatures of 26.50 or warmer, lots of moisture and low wind shear resulting in a tropical depression. As the winds rush to the center of the depression, winds speeds increase to 33 knots to form a tropical storm and later to 64 knots where the storm becomes a hurricane. Warm ocean waters and weak winds are required to sustain a hurricane for long hence hurricanes weaken when moving over land or cool waters. These conditions were perfect for hurricane Irma as Phil Klotzbach states “You need just the right ingredients for a hurricane of this magnitude to last for so long and Irma has had them all” (Plumer, 2017). Plumer (2017) states that the “warmer-than-average ocean surface temperatures, which provide fuel for hurricanes, as well as weaker-than-average wind shear, which can help to dissipate storms” made the summer an active hurricane season. According to the article, hurricane Irma became so huge and destructive because after developing near Cape Verde off Africa’s coast on August 30, a ridge of high pressure kept the storm from wandering harmlessly to the cooler northern ocean (Plumer, 2017). It was instead “pushed inexorably westward, giving it plenty of time to intensify over the warm Atlantic waters” (Plumer, 2017). Six cycles of eye circle replacement resulting in the increased intensity and expansion of storms are other reasons provided for the growth and destructive nature of hurricane Irma. The lack of wind shear to weaken hurricane Irma, small landmasses and the large area covered with wide hurricane-force winds are other reasons provided in the article for high intensity and size of hurricane Irma (Plumer, 2017).
Most of the hurricanes that hit the United States begin in the Caribbean or the Atlantic. According to Colin Price from Tel Aviv University, “85% of the most intense hurricanes affecting the US and Canada start off as disturbances in the atmosphere over Western Africa” (MacDonald, 2017). Areas most affected by hurricanes include Louisiana, Texas, and Florida with the United States, China, and Cuba most affected. The effects of hurricanes include loss of life and widespread destruction of property with hurricane Irma causing an estimated $62.87 billion in damage and 132 deaths. Destruction of vegetation, livestock, and crops, destruction of coastal areas including beach erosion, marsh erosion, dune destruction, and coastal cliff erosion and negative impacts on coastal tourism are other effects of hurricanes.
Climate change has led to an increased intensity and strength of hurricanes. According to Kieu (2017) “Hurricanes in the future will tend to be stronger than those in the present-day climate” in light of increasing surface temperature. Warmer ocean temperatures and increasing atmospheric disturbances as a result of climate change serve to increase the size and intensity of hurricanes as has been the case with hurricanes Irma and Harvey. These changes may cause far stronger and more intense hurricanes in the future showing the effects of climate change on the occurrence of hurricanes. According to Plumer (2017), “a rise in global temperatures could potentially lead to fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, but those that do form would be more intense, thanks to warmer water near the ocean surface, and bring heavier rainfall because of increased moisture in the air.”
Kieu, C. (September 13, 2017). Do hurricanes feel the effects of climate change? The Conversation. Retrieved on October 19, 2017 from http://theconversation.com/do- hurricanes-feel-the-effects-of-climate-change-83761
MacDonald, F. (September 11, 2017). Most hurricanes that hit the US start in the exact same location. Science Alert. Retrieved on October 19, 2017 from https://www.sciencealert.com/most-hurricanes-that-hit-the-us-start-in-the-exact-same- location
Plumer, B. (September 8, 2017). How Hurricane Irma became so huge and destructive. The New York Times. Retrieved on October 19, 2017 from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/climate/how-hurricane-irma-became-so-huge-and- destructive.html
Smith, T. (2012). The Definition of Tamara: The Resilient Palm Tree. Xlibris Corporation.