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What role do you think climate change played in Hurricane Sandy?
During the last few days of October 2012, Hurricane Sandy brought heavy rains, tropical-storm-force winds, and record storm surges to much of the East Coast. This resulted in severe flooding, loss of power for millions of people, and the destruction of numerous homes, buildings and other structures in New York, New Jersey and other eastern states. The total economic damage by the storm is estimated to be $30-50 billion.
Scientists say that climate change has led to an average global rise in sea level of about eight inches over the past century. Expansion of the ocean water (from warming) and the melting of land-based ice are the two major reasons for the rise. A higher sea level means that storm surges become a bigger problem, causing more damage to coastal communities. Ocean water is able to reach further inland, leading to increased flooding, loss of life and widespread power outages, as witnessed during Hurricane Sandy.
Warm ocean water is a key factor in the occurrence of hurricanes. Hurricanes get their energy from the warm, moist air over ocean waters near the equator. Climate change has led to an average increase in the temperature of the oceans, due to a rise in heat-trapping greenhouse gases. According to the New York Times, several scientists said that during the last week in October, when Hurricane Sandy occurred, parts of the western Atlantic Ocean were as much as five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, which could have increased the intensity of the hurricane.