Cornell Paper Confirms Growing Consensus: Global Warming Made Sandy More Violent, Will Result in More Freak Storms

On October 30th of 2012, I published a blog entitled “Hurricane Sandy, The Storm that Climate Change Wrought; How Global Warming Made Sandy Far, Far Worse.” This blog was largely intended to connect the dots between current storms, climate change, and ongoing advances in science produced by researchers such as James Hansen, Jennifer Francis, Bob Corell, Charles Greene, Jeff Masters, and prognosticators like Joe Romm and Bill McKibben.

In this blog, I referenced scientific research and weather observations from these leaders and others providing substantial evidence showing how global warming set in motion a series of events that first intensified Sandy, then moved her in a direction far more damaging to US coastal cities. Though I believed my meta-analysis of the scientific data to be correct, I wasn’t entirely certain that evidence would line up to largely match my initial observations.

After the publication of this blog, a number of key voices on climate change also produced similar analyses. On October 31, Joe Romm, head of Climate Progress published How Does Climate Change Make Storms Like Sandy More Destructive?  In the following weeks, more reports emerged. Dr. Jeff Masters, Bob Corell, and many others all bravely chimed in to claim that global warming played a major part in making Sandy worse. James Hansen called the current state of affairs a ‘global emergency. ‘

Now, a new paper produced by Cornell University shows that Arctic Melt Amplified Sandy’s Violence.

The report, issued by Cornell and Rutgers researchers in the March issue of Oceanography, describes how the severe loss of summertime sea ice appeared to:

… enhance northern hemisphere jet stream meandering, intensify Arctic air mass invasions toward middle latitudes, and increase the frequency of atmospheric blocking events like the one that steered Hurricane Sandy west into the densely populated New York City area.

The article was authored by Charles Greene and Jennifer Francis. Both scientists have produced ground-breaking work showing how the northern hemisphere jet stream produces increasingly amplified blocking patterns as sea ice erodes and how this new weather state heightens the frequency of extreme weather events. The risks, Francis notes, are highest when sea ice melt is greatest — during summer and autumn. However, as sea ice melt extends into winter and spring, risks for extreme events will increase then as well.

So we can look forward to more storms like Sandy.

It was Jennifer Francis who made near prescient warnings about the potential for violent weather during the fall of 2012 just prior to the emergence of hybrid superstorm Sandy. Francis and Greene’s new paper now connects the dots between global warming and increasingly severe weather events in a way never before seen in science. This new work appears, also, to be a validation of a broader work by James Hansen warning of the potential for powerful storms spurred by Greenland and West Antarctic ice melt (outlined in his book Storms of My Grandchildren). And the clarifying work of Francis and Greene seem to eerily mimic Joe Romm’s own prognostications in Hell and High Water.

In closing, I will leave you with a satellite image of Sandy — one that shows the blocking pattern spawned, deep-cutting Arctic cold front that linked up with an already powerful hurricane to both intensify and redirect Sandy in a way that produced unprecedented violence.

Sandy Arctic Arm


How Climate Scientists Journalists and Bloggers Warned of New Potential For Extreme Storms Before Sandy

Arctic Ice Loss Amplified Superstorm Sandy Violence

Joe Romm’s Analysis

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