Most scientists now believe the world is warming up, with 15 of the hottest 16 years on record all happening since 2001; 2014 and 2015 both setting records as the hottest ever, and 2016 likely to surpass them both. Global warming would be expected to bring more powerful storms because it means more water evaporates into the air, and warmer air can hold more vapour so when it does rain, the downpours are heavier.
My new book, Storm: Nature and Culture describes how the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which seeks a consensus from the views of thousands of scientists all over the world, predicts that downpours and tropical storms will indeed get more powerful.
Global warming makes sea levels rise, so when storms whip up the oceans, they become even more devastating. And every day, there are 200,000 more humans – more people to be hurt, and more property to be damaged. Britain’s worst ever storm was the Great Storm of 1703, which killed about 8,000 on land and sea. A study found that if it happened again today, 18 million homes would be at risk.
The IPCC has warned that rising seas and more powerful storms could make a number of major cities, such as Mumbai, uninhabitable.
Storm: Nature and Culture also explores the role of storms in religion, art, films and literature, examines how storms have changed the course of history, and tells the story of the worst storms of all time.