In August, Hurricane Elsa affected Jamaica, Cuba and Florida; Hurricane Grace brought substantial rainfall to Haiti two days after a devastating earthquake before making landfall twice in Mexico. And Hurricane Henri drenched New England. The contribution of human-caused climate change to these events still needs to be analyzed, but its fingerprint cannot be ignored.
Last weekend, while Category 4 Hurricane Ida was besieging Louisiana and Mississippi, Hurricane Nora was bringing rain, flash floods and mudslides to western Mexico.
Ida came on the footsteps of the 2020 hurricane season, when Louisiana was in the path of five landfalling storms, including Category 4 Hurricane Laura.
While the real scope of Hurricane Ida’s impact is just being evaluated, large parts of southern Louisiana, including New Orleans, are without power and will probably remain so for weeks. This will certainly be a challenge, given the high temperatures in that region at this time of the year.
One positive note: the levee system in Louisiana, which was significantly improved after Hurricane Katrina, stood the test of Ida — though the hurricane’s effects are not over yet. The rainfall from its remnants could potentially lead to significant flooding in parts of the eastern US.
This is an amazing feat, given how difficult it is to make reliable hurricane intensity forecasts days in advance, in particular in cases that involve periods of rapid intensification close to landfall, as occurred with Hurricane Ida.
While scientists must still make detection and attribution studies to determine the precise contribution human-caused climate change made to Hurricane Ida, there is little doubt that climate change helped augment the significant impacts associated with its high winds, storm surge and precipitation.
As we have witnessed in many of these extreme events this summer, the social and economic impacts are enormous. We cannot continue to delay taking significant action to massively reduce carbon emissions to avoid further damage from climate change. The time to act is now.