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Irene and climate change: Is there a link?

Posted by The NativeEnergy Team on Sep 02, 2011
Tags: climate change news, vermont

When Hurricane Irene descended on Vermont last weekend, Burlington (including the NativeEnergy office) was relatively unharmed, but the rest of the state wasn’t so lucky. Entire downtowns flooded, including destruction in Brattleboro, Wilmington, Waterbury, and Montpelier. The Burlington Free Press called it the worst disaster since 1927. Vermont communities are still recovering from historic floods earlier this year, and our hearts go out to our neighbors as they tackle yet another setback.

With record-breaking storms like these in our home state, we can’t help but wonder about the influence of climate change. Halfway through 2011, the United States has experienced more billion dollar weather-related disasters than ever before. Is this a trend, and if so, is it a result of greenhouse gas pollution? Was Irene more severe because of global warming?

According to an article in the New York Times, it’s hard to say with certainty. Many scientists agree that climate change could cause more intense hurricanes, and, since the 1970s, the number of large Atlantic storms has risen. Kerry Emmanuel of MIT noted, “On a longer time scale, I think — but not all of my colleagues agree — that the evidence for a connection between Atlantic hurricanes and global climate change is fairly compelling.”

But Thomas Knutson, a researcher at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, was quick to point out that it’s difficult to determine the cause of current hurricane patterns, never mind a single cyclone. We just don’t know enough yet, he insists.

Nevertheless, it’s plain to see the destruction that Irene caused—here in Vermont and along the East Coast. If you were lucky enough to avoid damages, here are some ways to help your neighbors:


American Red Cross
Donate online and specify “disaster relief” to help victims of Hurricane Irene.

The Vermont Disaster Relief Fund
Donations can be made online or by check (payable to the “Vermont Disaster Relief Fund”) mailed to any United Way office in the state.


VT Volunteer Resource


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