While the 2019 school year has just begun, you may find yourself reflecting on your summer and experiences here at Rider last year as you start building your expectations for the upcoming school year. Classes you took, friends you made, events you attended and fun you had traveling, but did you notice the odd changes in the weather? Perhaps you took note that the weather had been a little warmer in the fall, maybe there was a little more rain, maybe a little less snow, nothing truly significant. But did you notice the TVs across campus showing reports of extreme weather across the globe from flooding to blizzards and wildfires? Although it may not have been directly affecting New Jersey, the weather through 2018 was all but normal, and fall 2019 has already had its first extreme storm with Hurricane Dorian.
Hurricane Florence, making landfall on Sept. 14, 2018, caused devastating floods throughout North and South Carolina. As the storm stalled over land, it dropped enormous amounts of rain, reaching up to 35.93 inches of rainfall in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, according to the Washington Post. The sudden flooding created mass destruction and left 53 deaths in its wake.
Then came Hurricane Michael, which made landfall on Oct. 10 and proved to be one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. According to reports from the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post, the storm boasted consistent winds of over 155 mph and a central pressure of 919 millibars. It created storm surges of over 10 feet and left upwards of two million people out of power.
Junior musical theatre major Dylan Erdelyi, a native Floridian, has seen some of those effects first hand.
“We get lots of hurricanes down in Florida, and it becomes a real burden on the population. People have to spend thousands of dollars shuttering up their houses, and they don’t know whether or not the hurricane will actually affect them,” said Erdelyi.
Such storms do not only affect the population for the duration of the weather events, but leave lasting devastation in terms of property damage.
While one side of the country was being destroyed by violent winds and torrential downpours, 2018 brought raging droughts and uncontrollable wildfires to the west coast. Record-high temperatures and low rainfalls sent California into battling the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. The fire tore through northern California and destroyed more than 14,000 homes, and killing at least 85 people. During the 2018 wildfire season alone, Cal Fire reported that the fires caused damage to just under 1.9 million acres of land throughout the state. Besides the obvious burn damage of land and property, wildfires also cause major damage that can lead to dangerous mudslides.
“After the fires burned in communities, there was no plant life to keep the soil intact when the heavy rains came shortly after and this caused even more damage with the mudslides,” said junior technical theatre major Nicole Nilsson, a California resident. Much like the hurricanes, these natural disasters leave long-term damage that residents must manage for months and years to come.
These storms are just a few examples of extreme weather in the last year alone and they are not a coincidence. As humans continue “life as usual,” more and more greenhouse gases are released, trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing global temperatures to rise at an unprecedented rate. As the temperature of the earth begins to rise, ocean temperatures also face increases. Storms like hurricanes in the southeast thrive off of the warm ocean. The rising temperatures create the perfect setting for dangerous storms to become more prevalent.
Because of such changes in global weather patterns, while one area of the country may be facing higher than usual rainfall, the other parts are scorched by drought and rising local temperatures which sets the scene for the wildfires to take their toll on the west.
If the current rate of climate change continues, storms such as these can be expected to become much more frequent. It is easy to ignore the changes the planet is undergoing when they are happening so far away, but if changes are not made, they will soon land right on Rider’s doorstep.