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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: June 2014

Afterword - Frankenstorms

Summary

When someone at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association referred to the confluence of Hurricane Sandy with a polar trough just before Halloween as a “Frankenstorm,” it may have been largely owing to the storm's intensity and timing. But “Frankenstorm” produces another association: This monster, like the one in Mary Shelley's novel, may have been human created.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), summarizing data gained from countless observations, has reported that over the hundred-year period from 1906 to 2005, the average global surface temperature increased 0.74°C. Although the oceans have warmed less quickly than land areas, they have been taking in more than 80 percent of the heat being added to the climate system. Warm ocean waters are the energy supply for cyclones. This is why such storms lose force when they run aground. And according to the IPCC, “[t]here is observational evidence of an increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970.”

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