Culprit Climate Change Not Serious Enough — Sea-Level Rise Brings Hurricane Surges

September 1, 2023

Ashen-gray (if there’s such a coloring) skies this Friday evening — weather is just climate done locally.

In between sea-level rise and hot-ass ocean water, the just churned through Hurricane Idalia is a notable and horrific example of our future due to bad-shit-already-here-and-even-worse-shit-coming climate change — although obvious, not being taken seriously is a problem.

Despite the environmental connection, the MSM TV folks creates a void in factual reporting of climate change — from Media Matters this afternoon, starting with a disclaimer of sorts: ‘Major print news outlets such as The Associated Press, The New York Times, and The Washington Post included the role of climate change in supercharging the storm in their reporting. With little exception, however, national TV news coverage of Hurricane Idalia failed to link the unique factors associated with the storm — including the record ocean temperatures that fed its rapid intensification — to the climate crisis.
The analysis:

  • Less than 2% of the 780 segments and weathercasts about Hurricane Idalia across national TV news mentioned climate change.
  • Major cable news networks — CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC — aired 44 hours and 4 minutes of coverage across 691 segments or weathercasts about the hurricane, but only 10 mentioned climate change. MSNBC mentioned the connection between Idalia and climate change 5 times, CNN mentioned it 4 times and Fox News mentioned climate change once.
  • Corporate broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — aired a combined 89 segments or weathercasts that discussed Hurricane Idalia over 2 hours and 32 minutes, but only 2 of those segments mentioned climate change.

And further:

MSNBC made the connection between the storm and climate change in 5 of its 163 segments on Idalia, and CNN linked climate change in just 4 of 347 segments. Fox News mentioned climate change in 1 of its 181 segments. That mention, on the August 30 edition of Special Report with Brett Baier, dismissed comments from President Joe Biden connecting the storm to climate change.

Among the corporate broadcast networks, ABC and CBS each had 1 mention connecting the storm to climate change across their respective 28 segments on Hurricane Idalia. NBC failed to mention climate change at all — though the network aired 33 segments on the storm.

During the August 29 edition of CBS Evening News, anchor Norah O’Donnell illustrated in her headline report of Hurricane Idalia how effortless it should be to connect the storm to our warming planet, noting, “Extremely warm water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, largely from climate change and those persistent heat domes this summer, are fueling this hurricane.”

Yet, again, despite the obvious:

Another point beyond the actual global warming — from The Washington Post this evening, its lead story:

An unusual, dramatic surge in sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico, which began around 2010, could have added nearly five inches to the height of the waters that raced ashore, the figures suggest. More gradual sea level rise between 1939 and 2010 added about four more inches.

In many locations, this overall rise of about nine inches in sea level could have made the difference between flooding and staying dry, experts said.

“In this region, the eastern Gulf Coast, sea level rise has been faster since 2009, 2010,” said Jianjun Yin, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona who published a study in the Journal of Climate this year on this recent acceleration and how it has affected hurricanes. “So with this faster sea level rise, the storm surge could get higher and higher.”

The highest water level recorded with Idalia — a preliminary value of 6.89 feet above the average highest daily tide recorded from 1983 to 2001 — would, if confirmed, be the highest reading that the tide gauge at Cedar Key, a small island community battered by Idalia’s surge, has ever measured. It eclipses the prior record, recorded in 2016, by just under a foot.

Cedar Key, where at least a third of all buildings are believed to have sustained damage during Idalia, is also home to the best long-term record of sea level in Florida’s Big Bend region. Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning about 60 miles north of Cedar Key along Florida’s coast.

The Post calculated the sea level trend at the Cedar Key tide gauge, divided into two periods to emphasize the recent acceleration — a method also used in Yin’s study. The analysis began in 1939 because of substantial data missing before that date. The results suggest that the sea level has risen by around nine inches since 1939 — with about half of the rise occurring in the past 13 years.

Idalia brought the latest examples of new high-water marks being set in the gulf during hurricanes in recent years. According to Yin’s study, Hurricane Ian set a record at Fort Myers, Fla., last year, as did Hurricane Michael at Apalachicola, Fla., in 2018.


“There is strong evidence that sea levels are higher on Florida’s west coast than they would have been 100 years ago, in large part due to human-caused climate change,” said Daniel Gilford, a climate scientist with Climate Central.


“There’s no doubt in my mind that sea level rise has exacerbated the flooding that we saw,” said Ben Kirtman, who directs the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami.

But that’s just one way climate change is worsening hurricanes, Kirtman said, adding that Idalia was also probably more intense to begin with because of warmer waters along its path.

An aspect that brings us back around to the hottest summer in history, and not just recorded history, either. Forever.

Maybe the day after tomorrow without the CGI:

Drowning in the surge, or not, yet once again here we are…

(Illustration out front from the UN’s International Children’s Painting Competition, and found here.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.