The Shum Show: Hurricanes in Heat

Hey guys! I’m Greta Shum, and welcome back to the Shum Show! When big hurricanes, like Matthew, spin up, so does the debate on whether climate change has anything to do with these catastrophic storms. Let me give you SHUM facts on hurricanes and global warming. Well first of all, climate change is driven by a build-up of greenhouse gases causing more heat staying on Earth but only a tiny amount of that warming is going on in the atmosphere. Over 90% of the new heat is in the oceans. Dang! You might say trouble’s brewing! High ocean temperatures lead to more evaporation, and more water vapor in the atmosphere. But wait, the ocean’s not just blowing off steam. More water vapor in the atmosphere leads to more intense storms. Not only that, but this summer, scientists at Columbia University published a paper that found two things: first, more heat in the ocean leads to a starker temperature difference between the air above the surface and the water below the surface.

And that difference is where storms get their energy. The second finding was that while humans have emitted greenhouse gases, “bringing the heat”, we’ve also emitted a lot of aerosols, which are little pollution particles. They mess up our air big time, but they also reflect sunlight, reversing the effect of greenhouse gases, in a way. Since we’ve stopped emitting these aerosols into the air, we’ve improved our air quality a lot, but we’ve also taken out our buffer, and potentially “opened the floodgates” to a world with more intense storms. That means climate change is going to bring stronger winds and heftier storm surge. That’s all from me. You get back to your local meteorologist, and I’ll see you next week on the Shum Show. Need more of a Shum Show fix? Check out our playlist on WXshift's YouTube Channel, and while you're there, subscribe!.