Coastwide
In this Aug. 29, 2017, file photo, water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods from floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. Nasty hurricanes that cause billions of dollars in damage are hitting more often. Laura, which is threatening the U.S. Gulf Coast, is only the latest. David J. Phillip / AP Photo

USA - Damage From Whopper Hurricanes Rising for Many Reasons

A destructive storm is rising from warm waters. Again.

America and the world are getting more frequent and bigger multibillion dollar tropical catastrophes like Hurricane Laura, which is menacing the U.S. Gulf Coast, because of a combination of increased coastal development, natural climate cycles, reductions in air pollution and man-made climate change, experts say.

The list of recent whoppers keeps growing: Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, Michael, Dorian. And hurricane experts have no doubt that Laura will be right there with them.

It’s a mess at least partially of our own making, said Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Institute at the University of South Carolina.

“We are seeing an increase of intensity of these phenomena because we as a society are fundamentally changing the Earth and at the same time we are moving to locations that are more hazardous,” Cutter said Wednesday.

In the last three years, the United States has had seven hurricane disasters that each caused at least $1 billion in damage, totaling $335 billion. In all of the 1980s, there were six, and their damage totaled $38.2 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All those figures are adjusted for the cost of living.

The Atlantic is increasingly spawning more major hurricanes, according to an Associated Press analysis of NOAA hurricane data since 1950. That designation refers to storms with at least 111-mile-per-hour (179-kilometer-per-hour) winds that are the ones that do the most damage. The Atlantic now averages three major hurricanes a year, based on a 30-year running average. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was two.

The Atlantic’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy — a measurement that takes into account the number of storms, their strength and how long they last — is now 120 on a 30-year running average. Thirty years ago, it was in the 70s or 80s on average.

Some people argue the increase is due to unchecked coastal development, while others will point to man-made climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas. In fact, both are responsible, said former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate.

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