Hurricane Katrina Disaster 10 Times More Likely If Global Warming Increases 2 Degrees Celsius

By Staff Reporter on March 19, 2013 12:30 PM EDT

Hurricane Katrina, 2005 (Photo: NOAA)

Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc along the Gulf of Mexico in 2005. The fearsome cyclone cost the loss of 1,836 lives. Millions of storm victims were left homeless. Many communities including the historic city of New Orleans was submerged from the natural disaster. It was the worst storm to hit the United States.

To date, Katrina magnitude storms occur only once every 20 years. Danish climate scientist Dr. Aslak Grinsted of the University of Copenhagen led the research. According to his projection, a half degree Celsius increase in global warming can cause the frequency of Katrina-like storms to double, translating to a figure of once every 10 years.

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Based on the new research, storms of Katrina strength can occur three to four times as often once the average global climate reaches a full Celsius increase. Finally, scientists report that a 2 Celsius increase is the max "safe" limit in temperature change. Should the global climate increase by 2 degrees, then Katrina-level storms will occur ten times as frequent.

"This means there will be a Katrina magnitude storm surge every other year," said Dr. Grinsted.

Grinsted's study utilizes the data of historic storm surges and inputs the information with a range of climate predictions, accounting natural phenomena including El Nino. Essentially, the expected rise in sea level caused by global warming will only agitate the situation and cause storms to only grow more extreme and disastrous.

"We find that 0.4 degrees Celsius warming of the climate corresponds to a doubling of the frequency of extreme storm surges like the one following Hurricane Katrina," said Dr Grinsted.

"With the global warming we have had during the 20th century, we have already crossed the threshold where more than half of all 'Katrinas' are due to global warming.

"If the temperature rises an additional degree, the frequency will increase three to four times and if the global climate becomes two degrees warmer, there will be about 10 times as many extreme storm surges."

Be sure to learn more about the findings reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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