How Did Irma Get So Strong? Hint: Not Global Warming Photo of Michael Bastasch
BY MICHAEL BASTASCH
Curry said a major reason Irma intensified so quickly was because of weak wind shear. Wind shear takes away the heat and moisture hurricanes feed off, and it tilts a storm’s vortex, further weakening it. Irma was able to put warm water and moisture to use because of the low wind shear.
“In fact, the dynamics were probably more important than the warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean,” Curry said. “Irma reached Cat 3 status over temperatures in the Atlantic that weren’t all that warm.”
The storm reached Category 5 as it moved into warmer air and water near the Caribbean. Irma maintained wind speeds of 185 miles per hour for 37 hours — a record in the satellite era.
Irma temporarily weakened after making landfall in Cuba, but strengthened to a Category 4 storm Sunday morning when it hit the Florida Keys.
Irma hit Florida has a Category 3 storm, bringing 142-mile-per-hour wind gusts and “catastrophic” storm surge, according to weather forecasting officials.
For days, Florida residents prepared for the massive storm. Many saw the footage of complete devastation wrought by the massive storm, which was much larger than the infamous Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Irma weakened to a Category 2 by the evening while making its way up Florida’s west coast.
The storm made landfall a little more than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, which was linked to man-made global warming by some in the climate science community.
University of Washington climate scientist Cliff Mass took on claims global warming made Hurricane Harvey worse. He looked at the data and found man-made warming played an “inconsequential” role in the storm.
“There is probably some contribution associated with increasing sea surface temperatures, but it is probably modest since temperatures in the area have only warmed about 1 degree Celsius during the past 50 years,” Mass told TheDCNF, referring to Irma.
Some scientists argued long-term ocean warming fueled Irma and that sea level rise made its storm surge worse.
“Hurricanes get their energy from warm ocean waters, and the oceans are warming because of the human-caused buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, primarily from the burning of coal, oil and gas,” Climate scientist Michael Mann and two colleagues wrote in a Washington Post oped on Harvey and Irma.