Hurricane Ian Is a Warning From the Future

Hurricane Ian with wind gusts blowing across Sarasota Bay - Photograph: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Hurricane Ian Is a Warning From the Future
WIRED, September 29, 2022
By Meghan Herbst

“Tropical storms are increasingly likely to batter the US as oceans warm—and will continue to wreak havoc so long as climate change remains unaddressed.”


Hurricane Ian made landfall in western Florida on Wednesday afternoon with wind speeds close to 150 mph, just shy of reaching Category 5. Huge storm surges flooded coastal areas, with 12 feet of water hitting the city of Fort Myers. Surveillance cameras revealed a wall of water sloshing past storefronts and turning cars into 4-ton bath toys, all while the storm slowed to a hover over the coastline. Moving slowly across the state, Ian then dumped large amounts of rain, flooding inland areas, collapsing buildings, and leaving roads impassable. More than 2.5 million people have been cut off from the grid.


Just a week ago, Hurricane Fiona traveled all the way to Newfoundland in Canada, becoming one of the strongest storms to ever hit the area. And the first major tropical storm to hit the US this year didn’t pass over New Orleans or Miami, but San Diego—a city that almost never sees such weather. Events like these are not unheard of in the historical record, but they have been rare, and their presence during a year when so many other records have been set—from extreme heat in Sacramento to record flooding in Yellowstone—sets off alarm bells. Just as extreme heat and precipitation are growing in intensity and regularity thanks to climate change, the latest research says that strong hurricanes like Ian will become increasingly common too.


“There are a lot of things which are connected, and we’re trying to use models to sort through some of these complicated relationships,” says Thomas Knutson, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US. He and his colleagues are joining the dots to predict how hurricanes are changing as the world warms.

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About the Author:

Meghan Herbst first joined WIRED as a research fellow and is now a researcher and contributing writer. Prior to that, she earned a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley and reported local news for The Press Democrat and Sonoma Magazine.