Warmer temps influence hurricanes in surprising ways

If you’re like me, the first cool day of fall brings not only a relief from sweltering temperatures, but also a feeling that maybe we’ve dodged the worst of hurricane season. We’re not wrong, but we’re not out of the wind-swept woods yet. The National Hurricane Center tells us the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10, with the most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October.

Global warming is affecting the behavior of these hurricanes but maybe not how you think, UGA’s Marshall Shepherd said last week.

Hurricane Sam poses no threat to the U.S. Image courtesy NOAA/National Hurricane Center Credit: NOAA National Hurricane Center

Warmer average temperatures don’t mean more hurricanes.

“The peer-review literature does not support this notion of an increase in frequency,” Shepherd said. “In fact, there’s low confidence that there’s going to be an increase in frequency.”

But when we do get hurricanes, brace for more high category storms.

“So we might actually have the same number on average, or perhaps even a decline,” he said. “But when when they happen, on average, they’ll be stronger.”

Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia. He spoke to a group of journalists online for a Southeast regional webinar hosted by Inside Climate News.

Marshall Shepherd. Photo courtesy UGA Credit: UGA

Another takeaway from Shepherd: global warming is driving a more rapid intensification of storms. Hurricane Ida strengthened too quickly for the mayor of New Orleans to order evacuations and contra-flow on the highway.

“I argue that we probably are entering an era where we’re going to see more rapid intensifying storms. I think fundamentally, stakeholders, planners, policymakers, they’re going to need a new playbook,” Shepherd said.

The graphic here shows Hurricane Sam, my favorite kind of hurricane — a “fish storm” that stays out at sea. Here’s hoping all our storms are like Sam.

Climate worriers no longer alone

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has been surveying Americans since 2008 about our attitudes on climate change. On Monday they reported a dramatic shift.

The latest round of the semi-annual survey showed an increase of six percentage points in the number of Americans who say global warming is happening. That brings the number to 76%.

More Americans also believe climate change is a worry and it’s already harming people in the U.S.

It was a relatively mild summer on the Georgia coast, but heat waves, wildfires, droughts and hurricanes plagued large swaths of the country. It’s not surprising then that worry about climate change spiked, too.

Extreme weather this year has made Americans more concerned about climate change. Photo by Fabian Jones/Unsplash Credit: Photo by Fabian Jones/Unsplash

“An all-time record 70% of Americans are now very or somewhat worried about global warming,” the researchers wrote. The percentage of those “very worried” increased 10 points since March.”

More than half of those surveyed, 55 percent, reported that climate change is already harming people in the U.S. That’s a big change from when the surveys began and about a third of respondents saw climate change as hurting their fellow Americans.

BEACH ADVISORIES: As of this writing, there are no bacteria-related beach advisories except for the permanent ones at Clam Creek Beach and St. Andrews Beach on Jekyll Island, and King’s Ferry at the Chatham-Bryan County line on the Ogeechee River.
Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.

Don’t miss this voter how-to event

The Currentalong with The Savannah Tribune, one of the oldest Black-owned and operated publications in the United States, will co-host an online voter education event to inform voters from Savannah to Brunswick how to vote safely and effectively in local elections Nov. 2 under Georgia’s new election law.

The event will be held on two evenings — Tuesday, Oct. 5 and Wednesday, Oct. 6 — from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and will feature a panel of experts from state and local government. Learn more about it here: https://thecurrentga.org/the-current-events/.

Current editor takes to the radio

Tune in to Political Rewind on Thursday to hear The Current Editor-in-chief Margaret Coker. She’ll be a guest on the Atlanta-based talk show, hosted by Bill Nigut.

Margaret Coker
Margaret Coker

Political Rewind airs on Georgia Public Broadcasting radio stations at 9 a.m and is repeated at 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Around Savannah, that’s WSVH or 91.1 FM. In Brunswick, it’s WWIO or 88.9 FM. If you miss Coker on Thursday, catch a recording anytime online. Coker last shared news from the coast on the Sept. 14th show.

Jekyll Island master plan lacks housing limits

The update for the seven-year-old Jekyll Island Master Plan is out and ready for public comment. Jekyll, a 5,700-acre barrier island with about 1,000 residents, was once the playground of millionaires. It’s now owned by the state and run by the Jekyll Island Authority whose board is appointed by the governor.

Dave Kyler of the Center for a Sustainable Coast said the new plan lacks accountability.

“The final draft of the update of the 2014 master posted on the JIA website skirts a key issue of concern for the public, which is limiting the number of housing units or acres of commercial development that may be approved by the JIA, particularly regarding the proposed commercial and residential redevelopment of part of Jekyll’s golf course complex, the plan for which the JIA has not yet finalized,” he wrote in the Islander Newspaper.

A public hearing on the plan will take place on Oct. 14, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. at the Jekyll Island Convention Center, 75 Beachview Dr. N, Jekyll Island, GA 31527. Public comments will be taken. The Board of Directors of the Jekyll Island Authority will consider approval or rejection of the proposed amendment on Dec. 14, 2021 at 9:30 a.m. at the Jekyll Island Convention Center, 75 Beachview Dr. N, Jekyll Island, GA 31527.

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

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Mary Landers is a reporter in Coastal Georgia focusing on the environment for The Current. It's a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time...