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Ask Marilyn: Still More on Sandy and Climate Change
Judy Weiss of Brookline, Massachusetts, writes:
Marilyn: As a member of Citizens Climate Lobby, a national organization of volunteers lobbying for legislation to stabilize the climate, I'm writing to say that your column on Hurricane Sandy and climate change covered this topic in a superficial and inaccurate manner. (January 20, 2013) For example, you failed to mention scientists have predicted that warming ocean temperatures will cause peak hurricane winds to increase about 10 percent for every 3 or 4 degrees the ocean warms. In October, the Atlantic coastal waters were reported to be 5 degrees warmer than average, so this might be one concrete way climate change affected Sandy. You also didn't mention the effects of warmer air temperatures on a storm's ability to hold moisture, increasing the rain dumped on a region.
What your readers should have heard is that whether or not any one storm was made worse by climate change, there is incontrovertible evidence that climate change is making our weather more extreme. Moreover, the rate at which climate change is progressing exceeds all scientific estimates. We must begin serious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if we hope to stabilize the climate. You should have encouraged readers to call the White House and ask the president to hold a summit on climate change solutions in order to educate the public and Congress on the best approaches to this critical problem
Just one comment: The warmer-than-average coastal waters and the affect of air temperature on a storm seem more like short-term weather factors to me.