Hurricane Florence is an almost impossibly rare threat. A storm this powerful is exceedingly rare so far north on the east coast of the United States.

Never before has a hurricane threatened the East Coast with nearly 1.2m of rainfall. In just two cases since our records began in 1851 — Hazel in 1954 and Hugo in 1989 — has a Carolina hurricane provoked a 5.5m rise in the ocean tide.

In my two decades as a meteorologist, I can't recall a single storm that threatened new all-time records in all three of these, simultaneously, anywhere in the world. Despite what some of my more hesitant colleagues might say, you can connect individual weather events to climate change in this day and age.

Quite simply, Hurricane Florence is a storm made worse by climate change.


A warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour — producing heavier downpours and providing more energy to hurricanes, boosting their destructive potential.

We already have evidence of these trends from around the world. This is no longer just a theory.

The Carolinas are likely to join Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, California and countless other places worldwide that have experienced such deadly weather over the past 12 months.

On Wednesday, the US Geological Survey issued a statement predicting that Florence could erode away protective dunes from three-quarters of North Carolina's beaches. Like the otherworldly wildfire smoke that dimmed the British Columbia sun last month or the clear-day floods that routinely hit the Marshall Islands, this week's potentially coastline-erasing landfall is a glimpse into a haunting world that has arrived too soon.

For decades, hurricane scientists fretted about when the effects of climate change would become apparent. Tropical meteorology is tricky, and in the past the models have given conflicting results.

But on the east coast, the trends are more clear: stronger hurricanes are happening more often, and farther north. They are bringing more rain, and — as the seas rise, their coastal floods are literally changing the shape of the coastline.Washington Post