At the start of every school year, students at Rider move in with excitement,
their sole concerns being how to pass their classes and still have a social life. This fall semester, many students were riddled with concern and disbelief as the United States was hit with not one, but two disastrous hurricanes.
As Hurricane Harvey bombarded Texas in late August, just weeks before students were due to move in, countless numbers of families were forced to evacuate their homes. Many have yet to return and some have sadly found they have nothing to return to. In the days that followed Harvey’s arrival, citizens in that region were met with seemingly endless rain, dumping approximately 33 trillion gallons of water onto Texas, and the surrounding areas of Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. That is the equivalent of approximately 249 trillion standard size water bottles.
It was not long after the arrival and departure of Harvey that Hurricane Irma began to tear through the Caribbean Islands and approach Florida as a Category 5. Disasters like these, however, do not simply grow to that size on their own.
As we are now fully able to grasp the lasting effects of climate change, it’s easy to understand why we need to educate ourselves on how exactly our warming climate exacerbates extreme weather events such as Harvey and Irma, and how we need to prepare for future events.
Not only does our warming climate cause sea levels to rise, but as mentioned by Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist from Slate magazine, it also “enhances evaporation rates and increases the carrying capacity of rainstorms,” meaning that hurricanes and tropical storms can become more powerful and carry more water than ever before. It has been easy for some to write off past weather events as rare or uncommon, but as we look at these most recent events, it is clear that the uncommon is becoming the “new norm.”
Extreme weather conditions have affected the lives of thousands of Americans as well as people in nations around the world. Seventy two of our own Rider Broncs live in Texas, Florida and the Virgin Islands. Alison Fisher, a sophomore musical theatre major and new addition to the Eco-Rep team, lives in Stuart, Florida, where her family and friends had to evacuate because of Irma.
“The aftermath of Irma has left many parts of my hometown without power for days, and left a significant amount of tree fall and flooding,” she stated. “Thankfully, my friends and family stayed safe, but if the hurricane had not moved from its original course, the effects of the storm would have been detrimental to my town and the surrounding areas.”
For junior psychology major Johanna Estevez, in the wake of the storm, it’s all about family. “Throughout the whole storm, I was always checking up on my family [in the Dominican Republic] to make sure everything was okay,” she said. “My family was not hit as hard but I have other relatives [who were]. It just made us realize that life is short and we should spend as much time with each other and forget about materialistic things.”
Unfortunately, we have not seen the last of these storms in this hurricane season. Right now, Hurricane Jose is making its way up the eastern coast of the United States and could affect us and up through Cape Cod.
Directly behind Jose sits yet another powerful Category 4 hurricane named Maria. The Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico are in the direct path of Maria, and they still haven’t had a chance to recover from Hurricane Irma. While no one knows for sure where Maria will go next, the southern portion of the United States, as well as the East Coast, have every right to be nervous about this intense storm making landfall.
Weather conditions like these have ultimately been affected by the warming of our climate. These changes are not irreversible, but it will take years for the climate to return to what it once was and our actions can determine how quickly this decline can begin. There’s no better time to start learning about how our collective human activity can contribute to extreme weather events so we can work toward calming the storms ahead.
— Alison Fisher, Alina Bardaji and Lauren Margel
Published in the 9/20/17 issue.