“Time for the most active part of hurricane season,” said Jacksonville’s WJXT meteorologist Mark Collins. “The season is about to go into overdrive,” he added, “75% of all tropical activity typically occurs after Aug. 28.”
That isn’t just a concern just for regular folks, but utility companies, too. These companies must build power systems to withstand violent weather and get people safely back online after a storm. Storm prep is a test of good utility planning and analysis.
A concern is not just in this season, but the future, too: Hurricanes are changing. We have seen unusual weather phenomena, too, like the recent derecho, an extreme (140 mph) wind event, that swept the Midwest. Keep in mind that the term hurricane is used at 75 mph winds.
ECC caught up with Eric Jay Dolin, author of a new book called, A Furious Sky – The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes. Dolin has established himself as a major science and nature writer. (Kirkus book review here)
ECC asked Eric what we can expect of hurricanes. “The simplest answer is more of the same. Hurricanes will continue to make landfall along the Gulf and East Coast, with Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Carolina bearing the brunt of the punishment, and Florida taking the lead, accounting for roughly 40% of all hurricane strikes. As for the future, because of global warming, hurricanes of the future will most likely be worse than those of the past.”
Utility companies pay attention to weather for more reasons than you may think. Your safety and your finances are important considerations. Duke Energy meteorologist Nick Keener did a Capitol Hill briefing that is available on YouTube Many reading this blog have depended on Nick’s good work, you just didn’t know he was there. His analysis impacts using hydro stations for power, how much generation to start-up, fuel supply, transmission line ratings, and a lot more. Good guy.
Changes in climate create changes in weather. Dolin told ECC, “Global warming has already made the impact of hurricanes worse. Because sea level has risen because of the thermal expansion of the oceans and the melting of glaciers, storm surges associated with hurricanes are higher and more destructive.”
Hurricanes, like many storms, are more than wind. “A growing number of studies have found strong evidence linking global warming to increased precipitation during hurricanes. The reason is that warming leads to more evaporation, and warmer air can contain higher concentrations of moisture, which can come down as rain,” said Dolin.
Wetter seems certain. Here is something for weather geeks – said another report, “Hurricane Maria produced the single largest maximum rainfall event since 1956 in Puerto Rico. … extreme rainfall of Maria’s maximum magnitude has increased by a factor of almost five due to human-caused climate change.” The researcher cited the Clausius Clapeyron Equation, which says that for every 1°C temperature increase the air can hold 7% more water.” (Source)
Dolin points out that even with good data there is guesswork. “At this moment nobody can say with absolute certainty exactly how hurricanes will change over time as a result of global warming. Scientists would be the first to admit that there are still many unknowns, as well as limitations in data and modeling, that make it exceedingly difficult to predict the impact of a warmer world on these massive storms. The mounting scientific consensus that an increase in global warming will likely make future hurricanes worse, however, is not encouraging.”
Citizens and utilities need to keep planning and stay prepared.
Feature image: Hurricane Dorian damage in North Carolina, Dominion Energy media archives.