What climate change means to sailing

The last few weeks were extraordinary for storms around the world. It's a strange conundrum that although weather forecasting is getting better, the weather overall is getting worse - more extreme and less stable.

Hurricane Michael, which formed and intensified much more quickly than anyone could predict, devastated parts of the Florida panhandle and caused flooding and other weather related events up into the southern states. A video on YouTube shows the devastation.

On the west coast of the states, Hurricane Rosa, a category 4 storm, hit Baja California and Arizona early in October as a Tropical Storm. Hurricanes have never hit California as the waters off the coast are too cold to sustain hurricane strength. Two hurricanes merged as they climbed aboard land in Mexico later in the month.

Hurricane Leslie hung around the Atlantic for three weeks causing cruisers in the Azores, Madeiras and Canaries angst as she wobbled back and forth, sometimes heading east, sometimes west, and even threatening to go straight north to Ireland until finally deciding to head for the Iberian peninsula, turning just to the north of Lisbon and Cascais at the last hour. A hurricane has only menaced the Iberian peninsula four times in recorded history. So although rare, it's not unknown.

Storm Callum hit Ireland and the UK as we watched and waited for Leslie to make up its mind. It had strong storm force winds but fortunately not much damage. And we were all ready for it.

A rare Medicane tore through the islands in the Mediterranean causing boaters to scurry out of its way from Greece to Italy, ripping up harbours and marinas en route.

Meanwhile freak storms dumped massive amounts of water on the Balearics and France causing mud slides and floods of epic proportion that could not have been forecast.

Meanwhile the Northwest Passage got clogged with ice floes, presumably that had broken away from the glaciers, and was almost impassable. Only two boats made it through this year.

A Nor'easter is hitting the eastern seaboard of the US this weekend and Ireland has it's first snow flakes predicted for the October Bank Holiday weekend.

Problems caused by various effects of hurricanes and strong storms:
  • Wind and waves destabilize anchorages 
  • Massive flooding carries debris into the bays, rivers and harbours
  • Waves and torrents change the channels and displace sand creating undocumented shoals
  • Storm surge disrupts marinas as docks float over pilings
  • Tidal and wave action combine to change shorelines and contours
  • Boats are sunk and strewn ashore in high winds and surge
  • Lives are threatened for those who stay aboard or get caught out at sea
As one Ocean Cruising Club member said in a post on the Forum, the only safe place in a hurricane these days is far away.


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