The weather, currently.
On Thursday the sun will be directly above the equator—the equinox that marks the start of astronomical autumn. From here on out, we can expect the length of daylight hours to shrink and night to fall earlier. As if to celebrate the event, temperatures on Thursday will stay below 70°F, with a smattering of clouds increasing throughout the day.
Despite the shift in seasons, we’re still dealing with a problem that I associate with climate crisis summers: wildfire smoke from the northeast. I’ve been keeping a close eye on AQI maps to time my open windows and excursions outside for when the air quality is best. If you can’t avoid being outside for long periods, try to wear an N95 mask or respirator.
What you need to know, currently.
In early September of 1775 the wind off the coast of Newfoundland suddenly began to pick up. Newfoundland — an island off the coast of Canada, about the size of Ireland — was unaccustomed to hurricanes and the process of weather forecasting at the time was grounded more firmly in magic than math. According to Newfoundland’s Annual Register, around September 11th, “there arose a tempest of a most particular kind — the sea rose on a sudden 30 feet; above 700 boats, with all the people belonging thereto, were lost, as also 11 ships with most of their crews.”
Newspapers estimated that as many as 4,000 people died. One child, out on a fishing boat when the seas rose abruptly, was reported to have survived by being tied to the mast of a ship. For many years afterwards, residents claimed they could hear the cries of drowning men drifting up to the shore — a phenomenon that became known as “the hollies.”
Thanks to modern weather forecasting there is little to no chance that Hurricane Fiona, which is currently headed towards the Gulf of St. Lawrence, will be anywhere near as destructive as the Independence Hurricane of 1775. Still, it’s an unusual event for Canada, which rarely sees strong storms due the cold waters off its coast.
Fiona battered Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic over the weekend, causing widespread flooding, mudslides, and power outages. Roughly 75 percent of Puerto Rico was still without power at press time. The storm strengthened to a category 4 on Wednesday and it moved north through the Atlantic; although it’s expected to weaken as it approaches Canada, it still poses a significant risk to coastal areas.
While hurricanes have not necessarily become more frequent — this season, for example, has been unusually quiet thus far — data shows that they have become stronger due to climate change. Warmer air is able to hold more water vapor, making the storms themselves wetter and causing increased risk of flooding. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale is based entirely off of wind speed and does not take into account the multi-level threats of these new, mutating storms. Even a hurricane like Fiona, which hit Puerto Rico as a Category 2, can cause immense damage, especially to regions that are still recovering from recent storms.
What you can do, currently.
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