Hurricane Irma Blasts Through Caribbean: Is Climate Change Making The Storm So Strong?

No deaths have been reported so far after 185-mph monster storm Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean Wednesday. The National Weather Service issued an extreme wind warning at 11:14 a.m. AST for Saint John and Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands. As the eyewall of Hurricane Irma speeds across the Caribbean, island residents are in an “extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”

Irma’s eyewall is traveling about 20 miles an hour on a path toward Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic/Haiti. Maximum winds continue at about 185 miles an hour. Irma is an official Category 5 hurricane. According to NASA maps, Irma is now the size of France.

The White House declared a state of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster also declared an official state of emergency in the state.

The National Hurricane Center projected Wednesday that Irma will strike southern Florida on Sunday, taking a path up the Atlantic coastline. Hurricanes as strong as Irma have been recorded in the Gulf of Mexico, but Miami/Dade County has not seen a storm similar to Irma since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the New York Times reported.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said “take the announcements seriously” and urged residents to heed evacuation warnings, saying that Irma was more powerful and dangerous than Andrew.

Hurricane Irma Path toward Florida

Puerto Rico is already seeing sea level rises. The last storm to strike the island with the force predicted for Irma was Hurricane San Felipe, which hit Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, and Florida almost 100 years ago in September of 1928. Weather Channel hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross told the Associated Press that San Felipe killed 2,700 people.

Norcross also recently told the Washington Post that “Florida was not remotely ready” for another hurricane like 1992’s Andrew, which killed 62 people and destroyed 25,000 homes.

Tuesday night, the International Space Station captured mind-blowing video of the huge storm from over 250 miles overhead.

Irma’s force is so strong that equipment meant to measure earthquakes is picking up signals, seismologist Stephen Hicks reported on Twitter.

Tropical Storm Jose is developing in the Atlantic and is about two to three days behind Irma. NOAA predicts the storm will also develop into a hurricane like Irma within 36 to 48 hours.

Is climate change to blame? High ocean temperatures create strong hurricanes. Pacific Institute co-founder Dr. Peter Gleick wrote on Twitter that Caribbean water temperatures are very high.

NOAA’s ocean temperature map for September 5 shows extremely hot temperatures in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and especially near Florida and Cuba.

high ocean temperatures cause hurricanes

Scientists like Bill Nye and billionaires like Richard Branson have taken to social media to inform the public about how climate change makes hurricanes worse.

Houston is still recovering from Harvey with fundraising efforts underway, airlines are price gouging for tickets out of Florida, and gas stations are running short of gas days in advance of Irma’s predicted Sunday landfall in Florida.

In March, before the hurricane and western drought and fire seasons got in full swing, the budget presented by the Trump Administration slated cuts to government agencies involved in weather reporting, fire and forest services, and emergency management — including FEMA — the Washington Post reported August 29.

[Featured Image by NASA/AP Images]