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September Climate History: The Intensification Hurricanes

Laila Salgado

Last years have shown that climate change is increasingly affecting the intensity and frequency of hurricanes, and September 2022 is no exception. Two storms, Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Fiona, garnered significant attention due to their destructive impacts and the questions they raised about the role of climate change in shaping hurricane behavior.

Hurricane Ian

Beginning as a tropical depression over the Caribbean on September 23, 2022, Ian quickly gained traction, transforming into a tropical storm. On September 26, Ian intensified to a hurricane, parading across western Cuba and reaching north-eastward to the Florida Peninsula. With wind speeds peaking at 161 miles per hour and then lowering to 150 miles per hour, the hurricane was at a Category 4 level when it reached Florida and the Carolinas, leaving a devastating path of destruction. High winds, rainfall, and coastal surges led to infrastructural damage and a whopping death toll of 160. The speed and intensity of the hurricane were startling, pointing to the effects of human environmental impact on natural disasters.

Hurricane Fiona

Alongside Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Fiona appeared as a Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico on September 18, 2022, and hit Canada on September 24, wreaking havoc in the Caribbean on its way. Intense flooding led to the destruction of 8,500 homes and the displacement of 43,000 people. In Puerto Rico, the death toll from the hurricane reached 25 and there was a widespread power-outage. Hurricane Fiona was the most intense tropical cyclone to hit Canada on record, ripping through Nova Scotia with winds exceeding 100 kilometers per hour. With devastating effects in the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos as well, Hurricane Fiona exemplifies the expanding reach and impact of modern hurricanes.

Connection to Climate Change

Warmer Sea Surface Temperatures: One of the primary drivers of hurricane formation and intensification is warm sea surface temperatures. Climate change has led to rising ocean temperatures, providing hurricanes with more energy to increase strength and destruction.

Increased Atmospheric Moisture: As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture, which can contribute to heavier rainfall and more intense hurricanes. Hurricane Fiona's record-breaking rainfall exemplifies this phenomenon.

Slower Movement: Climate change may be causing hurricanes to move more slowly, increasing the amount of rainfall they produce in a given area. Slow-moving hurricanes can lead to catastrophic flooding, as seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Changes in Atmospheric Patterns: Climate change can alter atmospheric circulation patterns, influencing the tracks and intensity of hurricanes. This can make it more difficult for forecasters to predict a storm's path accurately.

Rising Sea Levels: Higher sea levels due to climate change can exacerbate storm surge impacts, leading to more extensive coastal flooding during hurricanes.


Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Fiona serve as stark reminders of the evolving nature of hurricanes in a changing climate. While there is no direct causation between climate change and individual storms, the trends in hurricane behavior and intensity align with the scientific idea that a warming planet can influence extreme weather events. To safeguard communities and reduce the impacts of future hurricanes, it is essential that we continue to address climate change through environmental policy, adaptation strategies, and environmental education. Only through collective global action can we hope to mitigate the growing intensity of hurricanes like Ian and Fiona and other extreme weather events.


  1.  Dickie, G. (2022, September 26). Explainer: How climate change is fueling hurricanes. Reuters.

  2. How climate change makes hurricanes more destructive. (n.d.). Environmental Defense Fund.

  3. National Geographic. (2022, July 15). The Influence of Climate Change on Extreme Environmental Events | National Geographic Society. https://education.nationalgeog...

  4. Pasch, R., Reinhart, B., & Alaka, L. (2023). HURRICANE FIONA (AL072022) 14-23 September 2022 FIONA AS A CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE AT 2100 UTC 21 SEPTEMBER. IMAGE COURTESY OF NOAA/NESDIS/STAR.

  5. Rafferty, J. (2022, December 22). Hurricane Ian | Deaths, Damage, & Facts | Britannica.

  6. The Canadian Press. (2022, October 19). Post-tropical storm Fiona most costly weather event to ever hit Atlantic Canada, new estimate says.; CBC.

  7. US Department of Commerce, N. (n.d.). Hurricane Ian 2022.


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