N.C. State research meteorologist Dr. Carl Schreck has made it his life’s work to study hurricanes. And, he is watching Florence.
“Storms like this are getting stronger,” said Schreck. “They're going slower.”
He said it’s because of man-made global warming.
“Hurricanes have always been a problem, but climate change is making that problem worse,” Schreck said.
Schreck points to the changing jet stream. Strong steering winds in the upper atmosphere, he said, have shifted north as polar ice continues to melt. The shift, Schreck said, is a contributor to Florence tracking more westerly toward North Carolina rather than staying in the Atlantic Ocean as have all other hurricanes that have passed through the same axis point as Florence. Florence, Schreck said, is the only hurricane of 32 that crossed the same axis point that has battered the U.S. No others have made landfall.
“You can see almost all of these storms are moving due north, none of them go through anywhere near the U.S.,” he said.
Not so for Florence. In 2004, Western North Carolina faced extensive flooding and 40 slides as a result of three back-to-back hurricanes that hit hundreds of miles away.
Schreck works in the Federal Building in downtown Asheville, often partnering on research with meteorologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Many study impacts of global warming on bigger rain-making hurricanes. Schreck said he knows there are skeptics.
“Yes, so definitely we still hear that a lot. But 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the climate is changing and that the climate is from human-caused carbon dioxide emissions,” Schreck said.