UH Manoa study finds hurricane risk could double due to climate change

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii could see the risk of hurricanes and other tropical cyclones double due to climate change.

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A new study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that climate change impacts Hawaii’s ocean temperatures and trade winds which can cause an increase in the intensity of storms.

The state’s main protection from hurricanes is the vaunted wind shear, which is the northeasterly trade winds. These winds often break up storms upon arrival, just like they did for Hurricane Lane in 2018.

UH Manoa Oceanography Professor Malte Stuecker is the co-author of the global study on climate change, which uses what he calls “unprecedented resolution” models on super computers to simulate things like ocean temperatures.

The model predicts Hawaii’s wind shear to weaken and ocean temperatures around the islands to continue to get warmer, making it probable for hurricanes to maintain or gain strength as they approach.

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s lawmakers are working on climate legislation to reduce CO2 emissions.

Senator Brian Schatz has helped to negotiate $35-billion in the new COVID-19 relief bill to go toward green energy like wind and solar power, while phasing out harmful air conditioning coolants.

“We did it on a bipartisan basis, so it’s not only important in terms of our progress toward fighting climate change, but it’s also giving me a little bit of hope that we may be able to do some bipartisan things on climate in the coming congress,” Senator Schatz said.

On Wednesday, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed three bills on climate change which change zoning laws on how much parking is required, streamlines permitting for residential clean energy projects and requires the City and County to become carbon neutral by 2045.

“Our post COVID economic health is dependent on how we transition into a clean energy and clean transportation economy,” Mayor Caldwell said.

The resilience strategy was designed with the help of Mayor-Elect Rick Blangiardi, but Blangiardi told KHON2’s Always Investigating that there will be modifications.

“We can’t deny ourselves or kid ourselves, that sea level rise is real,” Mayor-Elect Blangiardi said. “We may have to modify some of our plans. We have to be a little bit more balanced, short term going forward than some of the extreme measures I think we’ve taken before.”

Senator Schatz says that clean energy can be an economic driver for the state.

“Climate action is an American economic strategy, and so I’m excited about working with the Biden Administration and taking action on this issue,” Senator Schatz said. “Hawaii has been leading for many years and can set an example.”

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