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When Hurricane Ophelia slammed into Ireland, it was the most powerful storm ever recorded in the eastern Atlantic. Is the pattern of Atlantic storm activity changing with increasing ocean temperatures?

Climate Change

How Unusual Is It For Ireland To Experience A Hurricane? The Answer is “Very Unusual.”

When Hurricane Ophelia slammed into Ireland, it was the most powerful storm ever recorded in the eastern Atlantic. Is the pattern of Atlantic storm activity changing with increasing ocean temperatures?

Hurricane Ophelia paid a visit to Ireland earlier this month with sustained winds of 119 miles per hour. Do you remember any other hurricanes hitting Ireland? Probably not. Ophelia was what is commonly known as an outlier — an event that is at the furthest margin of the expected. In this case, it was the most powerful hurricane in the eastern Atlantic ocean ever recorded and way beyond the norm. See the graph below to understand just how far outside the limits it was.

Hurricane Ophelia track

Ophelia (in red) is “a huge outlier from the typical envelope of major hurricane tracks in the atlantic,” Tweeted meteorology PhD student, Sam Lillio. Credit: Spillo

“I think it’s unheard of for a hurricane to form this far east in the Atlantic and then take an almost south-to-north track which takes it directly across Ireland,” Prof. John Sweeney of Maynooth University told The Irish Times. Eric Blake, a scientist at the National Hurricane Center tweeted, “Near-record warm waters south of the Azores helped fuel this extremely rare event.”

“This was the first major hurricane making it as far east in the Atlantic as it did,” climatologist Michael Mann, co-author of The Madhouse Effect, told ThinkProgress. “Irma was the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to form as far east as it did. As ocean surface temperatures rise, the regions where tropical cyclones can form and intensify are expanding. This latest storm is consistent with that trend.”

Storms like Ophelia “extract heat energy from the ocean to convert it to the power of wind, and the warmer the ocean is, the stronger a hurricane can get,” says meteorologist Jeff Masters, who also has experience as a hurricane hunter. “So, scientists are confident that as we continue to heat up the oceans, we’re going to see more of these high-end perfect storms.”

Joe Romm of Think Progress adds further to the superlatives and record shock: “Ophelia is the tenth tropical storm in a row that has turned into a hurricane, something that has never happened in the era of monitoring hurricanes with airplanes.” And it’s not over yet. The official Atlantic hurricane season still has over a month remaining.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, ground central for America’s climate denial industry, the message is the same: “Nothing to see here. Move along. More coal. More fossil fuels. Move along. Nothing to see here. Warming temperatures are caused by sunspots, don’tcha know? There’s nothing to we can do about it, so let’s all calm down, sit back, relax, and make us some lovely money extracting and burning fossil fuels.” (Not a direct quote, but may as well be.) Why these people are not all in jail remains a mystery.

Source: Think Progress

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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