Hurricane Ida Leaves Dozens Dead, Thousands Without Power

Beginning as a tropical wave in the Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Ida has gone down as the sixth costliest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded as of mid-September 2021. The damage it’s caused has an estimated cost of at least $50 billion USD as well as close to 100 deaths.

On August 26, 2021, the depression was officially classified as a tropical storm and named “Ida”. In the next two days it would go through rapid intensification (defined as “an increase in the maximum sustained winds of a tropical cyclone of at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period”) transforming into a Category 4 hurricane at its peak. On the 29th of August, it made landfall near Port Fourchon, Louisiana with gusts up to 172 mph. This speed makes it the strongest landfall in the state, though tied with two other hurricanes. It went on to cause severe damage along the American Gulf Coast, only surpassed by Hurricane Katrina 16 years earlier. Over the storm’s duration in the area, 24 related deaths were recorded.

On August 30 it began moving towards the Northeastern United States, resulting in extreme flash flooding which caused upwards of 50 deaths. It combined with a frontal zone which exacerbated the declining storm. The rain Ida caused broke multiple rainfall records throughout the region. It also created at least twenty-one tornados, one of which was deadly.

In an interview Tripti Bhattacharya, an assistant professor at Syracuse University whose work has been cited by the UN said,

“It turns out to have been just the right mix of weather conditions, where the remnants of Ida met another system, an extratropical front. They combined to create really extreme rainfall over New York and the surrounding areas.”

Studies have shown that powerful hurricanes such as Ida are increasing in frequency and that it’s directly linked to climate change.

“A storm like this would have been exceptionally rare 20 or 50 years ago. But we have to start thinking about it becoming the norm as the climate warms. It’s very simple physics: As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture — and that means more fuel for rainfall.”

study conducted in 2013 by staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research found a global increase in category 4 and 5 storms since 1975. More specifically that the proportion increased, meaning there have been fewer low-category hurricanes as a result of this change. Another study from 2018 showed that rapid intensification has been increasing on average by 4.4 mph per decade. A separate group, scientists at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, argued in a paper that this change was in part caused by global warming.

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that human-caused climate change is making these storms more severe, and it’s only getting worse. Those in positions of power must take action to reduce global carbon emissions.