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The uncertainty of the weather and our planet

Publication Date: October 24, 2018

After a summer of alternating weeks of extreme heat and rain, as well as a rainy fall, it makes one wonder: Why is the weather like this? Why is this year’s weather so different than any other year? Why are there so many severe storms now?

Some may argue that this weather is the result of an El Niño, which is a geographical phenomenon that causes the water along the coast of the Pacific to be unusually warm, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With this comes more precipitation in the northern and western parts of the United States, but this change seems too sudden and severe to be an El Niño. Others say that the recent weather patterns are due to the increasing temperature in the atmosphere, causing more moisture to actively stay in the air.

“The more energy there is in [the atmosphere,] the more energy there is for storms to tap into, so the expectation would be that storms would become more severe,” said Jonathan Husch, a geology professor.

While the increase of heat and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a big concern, especially for the future, the most troublesome issue is the damage that is currently resulting from these massive storms. Hurricane Michael was one of the most damaging recent storms to affect the United States.

The damage from the storm is truly devastating. The harm done to the Florida panhandle is so immense that nearly every single house that was caught in the path of the storm was wrecked beyond comprehension, leaving many families homeless due to a shortage of local shelters in the immediate area. This left many families living on the streets during the hurricane with nowhere else to turn.

In a sense, many residents of New Jersey can relate to this because of Superstorm Sandy. Many families experienced some sort of blow to their homes or personal belongings, some of which displaced them out of their own homes for a while. A large part of this destruction, however, is due to the extremely high population density of the state, especially in the barrier island regions.

“We have more people at risk from these storms,” Husch said. “If the storms we’re seeing now happened hundreds of years ago, we would not see the same damage that we see now.”

The fact of the matter is, there are simply more people living on Earth today than 100 years ago. In fact, the global population is more than three times what it was from 100 years ago, leaving very little open space and an increased population density. This increase in population density and development makes it quite easy for a hurricane to severely affect a region due to how fragile that environment near the water is, which New Jersey is at risk for as well.

Although the damage from these storms are quite devastating, something can still be done to help mitigate this massive issue that is growing globally.

Earth and climate change professor Daniel Druckenbrod said, “We [would] need to reduce our carbon emissions by almost half by the year 2030 to have the earth warm by only 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

It goes without saying that this will be a very difficult task to achieve given the constantly increasing population, but with some positive thinking and smart choices, we can help alleviate this problem and give the future some hope.

Dean Riddle

Rider Eco-Rep

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