Monday, September 22, 2008
During the 2008 hurricane season, 10 tropical storms and hurricanes have ravaged Haiti, Cuba and the US Gulf coast. Six Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes hit the US from late July to mid-September, causing billions of dollars in damage. Four devastated Haiti, killing hundreds of people and wiping out any progress during the last few years in building infrastructure, planting trees, and other economic development efforts. Cuba was hit hard by Gustav and Ike. Oil and gas production in the Gulf took a severe hit also.
For obvious reasons, many hurricane researchers blame the increased strenth of tropical storms and hurricanes on global warming. This might be just another story of the impacts of global warming....another of the 100+ stories I covered over the last three years. But this one is personal. My congregation has been investing in improving health conditions in Haiti and we expected to fund several water projects in Haiti during the next year. But....what is left of our previous efforts...and what will happen to our future efforts to help alleviate the extreme poverty and suffering of the Haitian people? Nothing is the answer, so long as the world is allowing global warming to increase.
And the end is not yet in sight. Though the statistical peak of the season has past, severe hurricane conditions are expected to continue through at least October 15th. The extreme weather is no surprise: hurricane forecasters had predicted up to 18 cyclones. Even now, warm sea temperatures, low wind shear, a neutral El Nino, and other factors that contribute to the formation of hurricanes are still in place. In particular, water in the Caribbean and Atlantic is 0.9 to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual and warm water is the basic feedstock of hurricanes.
Although the 2008 season has been tamer thus far than the record-breaking 2005 season, which brought 28 storms forcing forecasters to use the Greek alphabet to name them, 2008 has set a record of its own: six storms in a row hit the United States. This is the largest number of times the US has been hit by tropical cyclones since 1851.