Ocean Health: Crazy weather about to get even crazier

Ocean Health: Crazy weather about to get even crazier

If you've noticed a change in the weather recently, you're not alone. It's been called "global weirding."

Even the nation's top weather trackers are concerned. Storms are getting stronger and the weather is growing wilder.

Storm damage is now calculated by the billions of dollars.

Compounding the problem, the critical natural resources that help protect us from the storm surges and ocean swells are disappearing.

It's a recipe for disaster; A perfect storm for storms.

As the Earth's temperature rises, the ocean heats up evaporating more water into the air, which can fuel powerful storms.

"The oceans are a major factor in weather. They store the heat that the planet accumulates, and then release it and release moisture with it," said Steve Katona, managing director of the Ocean Health Index. "It's the increased moisture in the atmosphere that contains all the energy that is driving these more intense storms."

Storm experts suggest the intensity of storms may increase dramatically.

"The kinds of changes that we're projecting are much more dramatic than anything we've seen in the last ten thousand years," said Tom Karl of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This then would suggest that our society is going to be tested in ways that it's never been tested before with major changes in storms in the rainfall patterns, and how intensely the rain occurs."

With rising temperatures also comes rising sea levels, increasing flood risks and the intensity of storm surges.

"About 60% of the population on the entire world lives within 60 miles of the ocean. So just from a weather pattern standpoint there are huge, huge implications to what we do in coastal development and what happens to us from weather patterns because of the behavior of humans," said conservationist Beau Wrigley.

The price tag storm and flood damage is staggering.

"If you take a look at the losses from weather and climate disasters since 1980, just in the US, our losses are well over $750 billion since 1980," said Karl. "In 2011, alone we had close to $60 billion of losses from fourteen separate weather climate disasters."

Mother Nature provides protections from many of the surges, swells, and floods of these storms in the form of mangroves, salt marshes, seagrass meadows, coral reefs and even sea ice. These shoreline habitats have been destroyed to make room for farming and housing. In fact, just as storm activity begins to intensify to record levels, the Ocean Health Index found we've left many of our shorelines - and ourselves - unprotected.

The 2012 Ocean Health Index score for coastal protection score is just 73 out of 100.

"Shoreline protection is an absolutely important goal because so many of our coastal cities, as well as island nations and low lying nations, are threatened by sea level rise and increasing numbers and intensity of storms," said Katona.

Coastal cities are most at risk, but the ripple effects of these intensifying storm patterns could be felt nationwide.

To learn more, you can visit http://www.OceanHealthIndex.org