El Nino and climate change bring us Hurricane Patricia

24 October 2015 2:29 pm

Everyone is battening down the hatches for Hurricane Patricia.

According to the New York Times, Patricia is the strongest hurricane ever known to assault the Western Hemisphere. It slammed into Mexico’s southwest Pacific Coast on Friday, transforming hotels into makeshift shelters, shuttering schools and closing airports.

Hurricane Patricia was so enormous that Scott Kelly, the American astronaut aboard the International Space Station, posted a photo on Twitter of the storm with the warning: “It’s massive. Be careful!”

But the worrying thing is whether Patricia is a warning of what we can expect.

This is not to say that a single weather event can be attributed to global warming or El Nino. What experts say both have contributed to the storm’s intensity.

The Washington Post’s weather editor Jason Samenow says the tropical activity in the tropical Pacific has been super-charged, fuelled by record-challenging El Niño, which has boosted ocean temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. He says global warming may also be playing some role in the intensity attained by these storms. Ocean temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere have ranked warmest on record year-to-date, 1.4 degrees above the long-term average.

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that we can now expect more of this to happen all around the world because of warming.

“Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21s century will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense than average."