Hurricane Florence: An Indicator of Climate Change

Amira Balala

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Every day, Americans are flooded with new devastating reports on the record breaking hurricane battering the Carolinas. Hurricane Florence’s most devastating impact seems to be water as WTOP reports that “a staggering 18 trillion gallons of rain could be dumped on the mid-Atlantic.”


Lately, questions arose on whether there is a link between hurricane Florence and climate change. Ties have been made by several news sites that warmer atmospheres hold more potential for more devastating storms than colder ones.


In an interview by All Things Considered with Audie Cornish, NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce gives us the rundown on what’s happening in the Earth’s atmosphere to produce such intense storms. According to him, the Atlantic and the atmosphere are different from what they used to be: “Sea surface temperatures are higher than they used to be, and ocean heat is what, after all, fuels hurricane intensity and size”.


This conclusion is not far fetched. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, a great climate change indicator is sea surface temperatures. Depicted on the EPA website is a chart of global trends of sea surface temperatures and they are steadily rising at an average rate of 0.13℉ per decade.


What does this mean? Well, for one, according to Joyce, future hurricanes are expected to be “bigger and wetter”. The big hurricanes that the U.S. has seen thus far, ones such as Harvey in 2017 and now Florence in 2018, have been slowing down and consequently dumping more water on one location. The worst damage is seen here; when the hurricane hovers for longer stretches of time over one area. The amount of water is too much for terrain that is not used to such levels of rainfall, and it’s not just the coastline that is being affected, it’s inland as well.


People living inland of the affected states have very little experience with such flooding and are therefore uninsured against floods. According to Joyce, “the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a flood insurance program and they tell you if you live in a flood zone and if you need to buy flood insurance. But they do not calculate what’s going to happen in the future with sea level rise and warming and bigger storms and wetter storms. They look backwards to calculate those flood maps.” Property that might have looked alright in the past could be in trouble in the future.


Work Cited

Climate Change Indicators: Sea Surface Temperature. (2016, December 17). Retrieved from


(2018, September 14). Florence slams North and South Carolina. Retrieved from


Joyce, C. (2018, September 13). What Hurricane Florence Tells Us About Climate Change. Retrieved from


Karimi, F., & Stapleton, A. (2018, September 15). Florence kills 5 in North Carolina, officials say. Retrieved from

Social media reveals damage from Florence’s record-breaking rainfall. (2018, September 17). Retrieved from

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