Hurricane Sandy grew over warmer waters

Oct. 31, 2012 at 7:37 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Changing weather patterns that may be the result of human activity suggests planners need to be prepared for more storms like Hurricane Sandy, scientists say.

The remnants of the storm, once a Category 1 hurricane, were moving across Pennsylvania Wednesday as the storm moved toward Canada. More than 8 million customers lost electrical power and at least 40 people died as a result of what became a post-tropical cyclone as it hit the U.S. East Coast this week.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said that, as water temperatures rise, late-season storms like Sandy could hold more moisture and strengthen as they pass over warm waters. Sandy, the group said, moved over ocean waters that were 9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average for late October.

"Human-caused climate change is delivering a one-two punch that is chipping away at our coasts," Brenda Ekwurzel, a UCS climate scientist, said in a statement. "Sea-level rise and more intense precipitation from a warmer, moister atmosphere make coastal storms more damaging."

UCS said higher tides that may be the result of continued warming could lead to stronger storm surges.

Sandy forced the closure of mass transit networks along the East Coast.

Ekwurzel said city planners need to consider climate issues more thoroughly.

"For the most part, our sewers, roads and transportation networks were built for our grandparents' climate," she said. "When it comes to climate change, city planners need to be our first responders."

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