Hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones: they are creatures of tropical seas, sweeping up heat laden waters, converting it to wind, rain, and waves. Why do a rare few evolve into colossal monsters, that leave in their wake a trail of destruction, death, and despair? Do we now face a rising tide of Super Hurricanes and Typhoons?
One reason is that more and more people are moving to coastlines around the world, drawn by a combination of jobs and lifestyle. In the United States, for example, 39% of the population lives in coastal counties.
A Columbia University report takes a global look at this trend by identifying major disaster hot spots: the east coast of North America, Bangladesh, the Philippines, the east coast of China. These hurricane-prone coastlines, with their dense population centers, hold enormous potential for economic loss and loss of life.
To make matters worse, the oceans have gotten steadily warmer over the last few decades, adding potency to the hurricane's fuel. Sea levels are expected to rise by as much as a meter by the end of the century, increasing the risks of storm surge.
As more people pack the coastlines, man and nature are in the midst of an excrutiating head-on collision. Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston in 2008. The cost in 2010 dollars: 28 billion. Andrew hit Miami in 1992. 45 billion. Sandy swept into New Jersey in 2012. 60 billion. Katrina in New Orleans: 106 billion. Not to mention the loss of thousands of lives.