Is global warming to blame for Sandy the "Frankenstorm"? Pundits and politicians were arguing about that even before the massive storm struck the Atlantic coast; now that it has moved on, after killing 50, flooding the New York subway system, ripping away chunks of New Jersey's coastline and causing myriad other damage that will place Sandy among the most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history, it's a more pressing question. After all, if the storm were an act of man rather than an act of God, we might be able to prevent such disasters from recurring.
Unfortunately, though, there's no easy answer. Climate change is measured in terms of observed changes in temperatures and weather patterns across broad swaths of territory over long periods of time. Scientists are reluctant to attribute any single weather event to man-made global warming. So how come such experts as Al Gore are telling us that Sandy was "strengthened by the climate crisis"?
In part, it's because Sandy involved a highly unusual confluence of weather events, some of which may have resulted from a widely documented rise in global ocean and surface temperatures. Waters in the mid-Atlantic, for example, are unseasonably warm, which may have made the storm stronger. It might have headed harmlessly out to sea if not for a rare blocking pattern caused by a high-pressure system near Greenland, which may have arisen because Arctic temperatures are going up.