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Ask Marilyn: Was Superstorm Sandy Caused by Global Warming?

Robert Schreib of Toms River, New Jersey, writes:

Marilyn: Was superstorm Sandy so bad because of global warming?

Marilyn responds:


In this case several factors not directly related to climate change converged to generate the event. On Sandy’s way north, it ran into a vast high-pressure system over Canada, which prevented it from continuing in that direction, as hurricanes normally do, and forced it to turn west. Then, because it traveled about 300 miles over open water before making landfall, it piled up an unusually large storm surge. An infrequent jet-stream reversal helped maintain and fuel the storm. As if all that weren’t bad enough, a full moon was occurring, so the moon, the earth, and the sun were in a straight line, increasing the moon’s and sun’s gravitational effects on the tides, thus lifting the high tide even higher. Add to this that the wind and water, though not quite at hurricane levels, struck an area rarely hit by storms of this magnitude so the structures were more vulnerable and a disaster occurred. One way global warming may have contributed is that the area’s sea level is somewhat higher than it was a century ago. A bit of good luck: Tides would have been even higher if the moon had been closer to us. Instead, it was just a few days from apogee, the point in its orbit where it’s farthest away.


 
 
 
 

 

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