Hurricane Ian is bearing down on the west coast of Florida with “catastrophic storm surge,” heavy rain, and wind speeds just 2 mph shy of a Category 5 storm. The monstrous storm bears hallmarks of climate change, which is making major storms more frequent, and threatens to devastate the increasingly densely-populated region and further stress the state’s already-strained insurance market.
Climate change has boosted storm surge, and Ian brings with it potential storm surge of as much as 16 feet to Bonita Beach and Charlotte Harbor. Ian also intensified rapidly gaining at least 35mph of wind speed in less than 24 hours and exploding from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane in just 72 hours. The warmer-than-average Caribbean waters fueling that intensification essentially add, “a lot more rocket fuel for the storm,” CSU scientist Phil Klotzbach told the AP.
In addition to rapidly intensifying — which exacerbates danger by giving communities less time to prepare — climate change is also increasing the amount of rain dropped by hurricanes and slowing their rate of travel. FEMA has already sent 700 emergency personnel, 3.5 million liters of water, 3.7 million meals, and hundreds of generators to the state and offshore oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico dropped by about 11% ahead of the storm. (AP, Bloomberg $, ABC, NBC, AP, Washington Post $; Storm surge: Yahoo, Bloomberg $, NBC; Rapid intensification: CNN, E&E News, Bloomberg $, Weather Channel; Development & insurance: (NPR, Politico, Wall Street Journal $; FEMA: E&E News; Offshore Oil: Reuters; Climate Signals background: Hurricanes, Storm surge increase, Coastal flooding increase)