Three things we’re reading about hurricanes

Hurricane Irma

This visible light image of Hurricane Irma was captured by NOAA’s GOES East satellite as it strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane in the Central Atlantic Ocean on September 5, 2017. (© NASA)

As recovery efforts ramp up in Houston, all eyes are on the latest predictions for Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, as it churns toward Florida.

But in a changing climate, up-to-the-minute storm tracks can mask a bigger picture about the role of climate change in hurricanes, and in how humans work with nature — or not — to mitigate the worst impacts.

Here are three stories you may have missed.

Hurricanes are sweeping the Atlantic. What’s the role of climate change?

No one hurricane can be directly linked to climate change — but they can exacerbate them, and that is exactly what is happening with Irma, according to several experts. “The science is now fairly clear that climate change will make stronger storms stronger,” climate scientist Michael Mann told NPR. Read more here.

Hurricane Irma: A practically impossible storm

Forget what you remember from the film “The Day After Tomorrow”: All hurricanes have a speed limit of sorts, a thermodynamic threshold for how fast their winds can blow. As Wired reports, few hurricanes ever near that limit — but Irma is coming close. Find out how.

Boomtown, Flood Town

Houston sprawls over what used to be prairie grasslands that can absorb huge amounts of rainfall. As part of a special report published last year, journalists with ProPublica and the Texas Tribune explored how rapid development in America’s fourth-largest city led to paving over of some of the city’s natural defenses against flooding. Read more here.

Bruno Vander Velde is Conservation International’s editorial director.

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