The hurricanes that battered North America this year have boosted awareness of climate change and increased cities' resolve to act

Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. 2017’s mega-storms battered the Caribbean and the US mainland repeatedly and strenuously during the autumn storm season. The US sustained 15 natural disasters costing $1bn or more, making 2017 one of the most expensive to date for disaster recovery.

Since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and then 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, more North Americans became aware that 21st century storms can turn brutally devastating and into the path of populous areas in a matter of hours.

A dozen years after Katrina, the idea that these mega-storms might not be 100-year or 500-year anomalies but regular, recurrent events is starting to dawn on us, and with that dawning a movement toward resilience is ramping up.

Jim Blackburn, co-director of Rice University’s Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters centre in Houston says though superstorm awareness is increasing, it is doing so unevenly.

Hurricane Harvey was one of 15 natural disasters to hit the US (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
 
 

“Right now the new actor is the public, generally becoming aware of ‘weird weather’,” Blackburn says. “Harvey increased awareness – by that I mean in the general public – of big storms.”

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