A just-released statement from the National Hurricane Center confirms that Hurricane Irma is the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico in their records, and tied for second place as the strongest ever in the Atlantic. What is the fuel feeding record storms? Warming surface waters accelerated by human activities on earth.
Sure, you can order government scientists to stop using the words climate change, you can pass laws banning the discussion in school curriculum, but that doesn’t change this reality. See: Catastrophic Intensity: Why is hurricane Irma gaining strength so quickly?
Warm surface waters produce heat and water vapor. Hurricanes feed on and intensify from both, and the amount of rain they ultimately dump can be increased by both the higher availability of water vapor from the warm water and the fact that a warmer atmosphere can hold more of that available moisture (more on this here). Therefore, a trend of both increased intensity and rainfall associated with hurricanes can be expected, and in fact recent studies are in agreement with that (see here and here).
The waters off the coast of Texas when Harvey intensified from a category 2 to a category 4 hurricane were 2.7-7.2°F above average. The sea surface temperature where Irma was located as of the morning of 9/5 appears to be at least 2.7°F above average, which may have had a role in it turning into a category 5.
There is so much opportunity to learn, evolve and improve here. We have the technology to rebuild and upgrade to smarter energy and infrastructure systems that will better protect against mounting disaster risks as well as start lowering temperatures and reduce environmental harm for the future. Or not, and continue to suffer the bankrupting , life-destroying consequences. The choices are ours to make.