Hurricane Madeline, August 2016

Living on a Warming Planet

Now that both Hurricane Madeline and Hurricane Lester have simmered down and gone on their ways, I am in thankful reflection for our beautiful mountains which protect us, and the natural forces which caused these two massive storms to perform something of a meteorological judo move and use each other’s energy to move away from us.

But I am a little disturbed by some of the comments I am seeing on social media. Someone asked if “things have changed,” as when that person lived in Hawaiʻi, we did not call storms “hurricanes.” The answer is, “Yes. Things have changed.”

We didn’t used to call most storms hurricanes because Hawaiʻi generally didn’t used to get hurricanes. They were few and far between. By the time most hurricanes reached Hawaiʻi, they had downgraded to tropical storms or depressions.

But now they are maintaining hurricane force ever closer to our islands, and coming more frequently. What has changed? The climate.

As ocean waters warm and currents in air and sea shift, the conditions for hurricanes become more favorable. These hurricane-generating conditions will only grow stronger in the foreseeable future. Hurricanes will become more frequent, draw closer to our islands and, if we are not prepared, will wreak more damage in our islands than we have ever seen before.

Whether one believes that climate change is human-caused or just part of the natural cycle, the climate is changing and we all must learn to live on a warming planet.

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