Global Warming and Grim Atlantic Hurricane Season Bodes Hazardous for Communities of Color

Recent reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest that the ongoing oil spill may not be the only disaster the Gulf Coast has to face this year.

The decade from 2000 to 2009 marked the warmest global temperatures on record, and despite unexpectedly heavy snowfall in the U.S. at the beginning of this year, 2010 is predicted to follow suit. Based on monthly analysis conducted by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, the period from January to April produced the hottest combined global land and ocean surface temperature since formal measurements began in 1880. The combined average surface temperatures from January to April exceeded measurements taken in the 20thcentury by 1.24°F (0.69°C), reflecting global warming predictions. Similarly, global ocean surface temperatures in April marked the warmest for that month in over a century, with NOAA observing rising heat “most pronounced in the equatorial portions of the major oceans, especially the Atlantic.”

Comparison of 2010 Temperature to the Two Other Years with the Warmest Annual Means

[Extracted from NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies “GISS Surface Temperature Analysis” Last Modified: 05-17-2010]

A 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment affirmed the connection between sea-surface warming and the increased intensity and severity of tropical cyclones. Higher land and ocean surface temperatures, particularly in the Atlantic region, increase the threat of hurricanes and other climatic events that exacerbate the vulnerability of communities of color to the impacts of climate change.

  • African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to have access to resources that mitigate the direct impacts of hurricanes, such as, home owners’ insurance coverage and emergency savings.
  • Even low-impact scenarios estimating climate change costs due to storms, infrastructure losses, and decreasing tourism in the Caribbean project considerable economic damage—totaling nearly 2% of the region’s cumulative GDP—by 2025.

June 1st marked the beginning of this year’s hurricane season in the Atlantic, and according to a recent press release from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is an 85% chance that this season will produce more than the usual number of tropical storms, cyclones, and major hurricanes:

…the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is expected (with 70% chance) to produce 14-23 named storms, 8-14 hurricanes, and 3-7 major hurricanes. Therefore, this season could see activity comparable to a number of extremely active seasons since 1995. If the 2010 activity reaches the upper end of our predicted ranges, it will be one of the most active seasons on record…Historically, all above normal seasons have produced at least one named storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and 95% of those seasons have at least two named storms in the Gulf. Most of this activity (80%) occurs during August-October. However, 50% of above normal seasons have had at least one named storm in the region during June-July.


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