Idalia, a tropical storm heading toward Florida, may strengthen into a hurricane this week: experts

The Biden-Harris Administration urged residents to be prepared as the storm intensifies and makes landfall

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published August 28, 2023 2:03PM (EDT)

Dark clouds are seen due to the tropical storm Idalia in Havana, on August 28, 2023. (YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)
Dark clouds are seen due to the tropical storm Idalia in Havana, on August 28, 2023. (YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images)

Experts have predicted for years that as climate change worsens, extreme weather events will become both more intense and more frequent. Among other things, scientists observe that tropical storms will more often turn into hurricanes as they hit warmer waters while heading to the shore. That very thing appears to now be happening with Tropical Storm Idalia. As the super-storm barrels through Cuba en route to Florida, it is heading toward warmer-than-usual waters that are expected to turn it into a full-fledged hurricane that will hit the mainland later this week.

"Idalia is now forecast to become a major hurricane before it reaches the Gulf coast of Florida," explained the National Hurricane Center in a post on X (formerly Twitter). "The risk continues to increase for life-threatening storm surge and dangerous hurricane-force winds along portions of the west coast of Florida and the Florida Panhandle beginning as early as late Tuesday."

The Biden-Harris Administration urged residents to start preparations Monday in a release by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The underlying problem is that Idalia — which is currently projected to be a Category 3 tropical storm when it hits Florida between Tampa and Tallahassee — is forecast to pass over parts of the ocean where the sea surface temperatures average close to 90 F. The warmer ocean water could fuel the tropical storm and intensify its features.

This is not the only occasion in which climate change has worsened bad weather. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that this year's hurricane season could be more aggressive thanks to warmer ocean temperatures. Meanwhile, the June 2023 Canadian wildfires are likewise believed to have been exacerbated by climate change. More broadly, the combination of heatwaves and droughts are expected to cause more severe weather events like wildfires, a "new abnormal."

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