Climate change made Hurricane Sandy more deadly, researchers report

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Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of coastal New Jersey and New York, last October, may have hit its targets because of a record Arctic ice loss last year, which is turn was caused by climate change, according to a report in the March 2013 issue of Oceanography.

Sandy damage, Jersey City
Hurricane Sandy savaged Jersey City.

Earth science experts from Cornell and Rutgers universities co-authored the article, “Superstorm Sandy: A Series of Unfornatute Events?,” which concludes that Sandy was no freak of nature, but the predictable outcome of changes happening that are triggered by global warming.

The researchers found that extreme loss of Arctic sea ice — such as that of 2012 — appears to exacerbate jet stream “meandering” and force Arctic air masses toward middle latitudes. That increases the frequency of atmospheric blocking events, like the one that steered Hurricane Sandy westward into land at a point on the US seaboard where hurricanes has historically scuttled eastward out to sea.

Hurricane Sandy then ran into another storm system, creating a massive tempest.

“To literally top it off, the storm surge combined with full-moon high tides and huge ocean waves to produce record high water levels that exceeded the worst-case predictions for parts of New York City,” the researchers write.

The article and research was a collaboration by Charles H. Greene, Cornell professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and director of Cornell’s Ocean Resources and Ecosystems program; Jennifer A. Francis of Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences; and Bruce C. Monger, Cornell senior research associate, earth and atmospheric sciences.

Oceanography is a peer-reviewed journal.







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