Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy and climate change: It's complicated

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 8:44 AM

The entire northeast is preparing for the onset of the Hurricane Sandy. Or more specifically, people in the northeast are preparing for the Frankenstorm: Hurricane Sandy mixed with a winter storm coming from the north.

That combination of a hurricane and a nor'easter is weird. And it's the latest example of weird or abnormally severe weather this year. I've found myself wondering what role climate change plays in the Frankenstorm and I'm not alone. Yesterday, NPR published an answer to that question; it's not the most fulfilling, but it's honest.

The NPR article says that determining attribution — the idea of whether changes in the climate cause or worsen specific weather events — is still "science on the bleeding edge." With hurricanes, scientists aren't yet able to point to specific storms and say with adequate certainty that climate change played a key role, says the NPR article.

A blog post by New York Times writer Andrew Revkin draws a similar conclusion:

"But there remains far too much natural variability in the frequency and potency of rare and powerful storms — on time scales from decades to centuries — to go beyond pointing to this event being consistent with what’s projected on a human-heated planet," Revkin writes.

So there you have it. The not-so-scientific answer to whether the Frankenstorm is a product of climate change: Maybe.

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