Ciara, Dennis and Climate Change

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Ciara, Dennis and Climate Change

With climate change becoming an increasing global concern, extreme weather will become more common. Ciara and Dennis have shown how powerful these storms can be, causing disruptions nationally to mass transit and everyday lives.

Storm Ciara battered much of the United Kingdom a week and a half ago. Now, it has continued onto continental Europe with high winds, heavy rain and snow causing major delays to mass transit nationwide. Flyaway debris like trampolines and branches caused train delays and flooded streets, making it impossible for cars to pass.

Undoubtedly, the storm caused disruptions for people going about their Sunday. Roughly 20,000 homes had lost power and seven reported fatalities have been attributed to the storm, as of February 12. 

With nearly 500 properties being flooded and waters reaching the high streets, this storm is being called the “Storm of the Century” by meteorologists. And with Strom Dennis on the horizon, the Met office is strongly advising people to take precautions after the force that Ciara brought on February 9. The biggest question people have had is whether these storms are related to climate change, and if so, what can the UK do to prepare for them in the future.

Storms like Ciara receive less attention in research, unlike hurricanes and cyclones, due to the fact that storms like this are more isolated and are caused by many other factors. Severe thunderstorms like Ciara have a direct link to climate change. With changing temperatures, they will get stronger as global climate change works in their favour. 

Floods like these can become more common in the years to come. Photo: Jonathan Ford/Unsplash

NASA defines severe thunderstorms as “having sustained winds above 93 kilometres (58 MPH) per hour or unusually large hail, and there are two key factors that fuel their formation: convective available potential energy (CAPE) and strong wind shear. CAPE is a measure of how much raw energy is available for storms; it relates to how warm, moist, and buoyant air is in a given area. Wind shear is a measure of how the speed and direction of winds change with altitude.”

In other words, scientists have evidence that climate change and global warming increase CAPE by putting more moisture in the air, therefore creating stronger thunderstorms by giving storms more fuel to feed on. 

Ciara had a lot of power behind it and, with increasing threats to climate change, it is likely that more storms like this one will be happening. Global climate change has caused storms worldwide to increase in severity, making them more unpredictable and difficult for governments to prepare for them.

Climate change has also caused an increase in ocean acidification, raising surface temperatures and leading to more intense storms like Ciara year-round. We know this, but the question still remains: how are we going to prepare for it?

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