Dangerous Hurricane Matthew Strengthens in Record Hot Environment
Hurricane Matthew has already been a storm for the record books. Matthew was the lowest latitude Category 5 storm to form on record in the Atlantic basin. An achievement that bears testament to the amount of heat energy the storm was feeding on — as higher latitude storms can better leverage the Earth’s spin to increase wind speed. It was the longest lasting Category 4-5 storm on record in the Caribbean. And it produced the highest accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) of any hurricane on record for that sea.
Matthew — A Record-Breaking Storm in a Record Hot World
This powerful hurricane has consistently fed on sea surface temperatures in the range of 29 to 30 degrees Celsius (84 to 86 Fahrenheit). These waters are 1-3 degrees Celsius above 20th Century averages and are at or near record hot levels. Furthermore, added heat at the ocean surface has led to greater evaporation which has contributed to 75 percent relative humidity readings at the middle levels of the atmosphere.
Such high levels of heat and atmospheric moisture are not normal. They provide an excessive amount of fuel for powering intense hurricanes like Matthew. And all this heat and moisture is now made more readily available by a record hot global environment resulting from the ever-rising levels of greenhouse gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere due to fossil fuel burning.