(This is not to say that firefighting agencies like Calfire are not good at what they do. The successful evacuation of South Lake Tahoe proves this: long before the fire spread to the edge of the town, more than 20,000 people were successfully evacuated.)
Like fires, one of the factors driving hurricanes is heat. “Coastal waters are warming significantly,” said Misra of Florida State University. When Hurricane Ida moved over the Gulf of Mexico, it fed on unusually warm water, causing squally winds when the storm made landfall.
Of course, hurricanes are complex phenomena, so there are other factors at play, such as the state of the atmosphere at a specific time. Scientists need more data to fully understand the trend of rapid intensification. Misra said that warm water “does not necessarily mean that all storms that make landfall will eventually be stronger than current storms. But it will definitely sound the alarm.”
Therefore, the fact that the warm atmosphere contains more water should also be the same. “Under the right conditions, when convection occurs, it will squeeze out more water from the same volume of air in a warm climate in the future than in the current climate,” Misra said. “Therefore, the threat of tropical cyclones-whether it is rapidly increasing or appearing more frequently in the future-will be more severe, and there will be more rainfall.” After the hurricane made landfall, the wind speed weakened because it was no longer warm. Feed on the waters of the Gulf. But as it moved inland, it continued to pour heavy rains, which could cause devastating floods throughout the southern and eastern states.
Hurricane forecasters can accurately predict the path of stormy days in advance and provide state and local governments with valuable data to notify evacuation; these models are effective and they have saved countless lives. But climate change will bring new challenges to modelling because it changes the way hurricanes behave. “Most of our weather forecast models do not do a good job of predicting rapid intensification,” Misra said. “So this in itself is a huge problem in preparing to mitigate the impact of the hurricane.”
The extreme ferocity of today’s natural disasters also makes it more difficult for citizens to analyze their own risks. Amberstrom, a risk communications researcher at the University of Washington, said: “People set expectations based on their previous experience, and these things are beyond people’s experience.” “Hurricanes or wildfires are faster than people experience.” People who stayed safely at home in one of these disasters 20 years ago—either because they refused to leave or there was no way—are likely to find themselves in extreme danger today.
Although the rapid intensification of hurricanes is dangerous for everyone, it is the worst for those who do not have the resources to evacuate quickly. Kyle Burke Pfeiffer, director of the National Defense Analysis Center at Argonne National Laboratory, said: “Many people living in coastal areas are either very rich or very poor.” For the poor, he continued, “ They may not have a car, or the funds or the ability to leave work or home. Moreover, in many cases, the buildings they live in are not designed to withstand the external loads imposed on them by various disasters (such as hurricanes).”
California has a similar problem: the sky-high housing prices along the coast push more people eastward, into the state’s wasteland city interface, where the city meets the forest. Paradise is such a small town, and so is South Lake Tahoe. “There are more and more people in these areas-in fact [the areas are] Dryer—resulting in more fires near the community,” said Cova of the University of Utah. So fires tend to start closer to towns with Go faster. “This will affect evacuation because the available time may be less than the time you need, just like in heaven.” Especially retirees flock to these places, but any elderly residents with limited mobility will find it more difficult to evacuate when a fire is approaching.