Anthropogenic Storms

Headed back to Punta Sur today, and I noticed this little structure from the crocodile deck. It looks like they planted a mangrove and built a little cage out of sticks to protect it. The cage blends right into the landscape, so I almost didn't notice them. Andrea says this whole area was full of mangroves before Hurricane Wilma wiped them out.

I often think of restoration as something that only happens after human disasters, but the fact is that many restoration projects are meant to restore ecosystems that were destroyed by natural disasters. Of course, a pretty decent case can be made that hurricanes, in their current strenth and frequency, are no longer completely natural in their cause.

According to Wikipedia, Wilma was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, and it hit its peak intensity over the Yucatan. Quintana Roo's governor, Félix González Canto, told an interviewer: "Never in the history of Quintana Roo have we seen a storm like this." Not only was it the strongest, it also was the fourth category 5 hurricane in 2005, the season which brought us Emily, Katrina, and Rita before bringing us Wilma, something which had not been seen since 1933. Atlantic storms are named alphabetically, but 2005 was the first year we got all the way down the alphabet to W.

Although you're not supposed to ascribe particular storms to climate change, we know that warming waters are the engine for hurricane formation and intensification. It seems fair to say that were it not for the extra carbon we've been pumping out into the atmosphere, a powerful hurricane named Wilma would not have formed in 2005. We'll never know, but its important to realize this and to include hurricane damage, to both cities and mangrove swamps, when we tallyup the damage and the impact of climate change.


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