Hurricanes and Mental Health

Research shows that mental illnesses are common in the United States, with nearly one in five adults living with a mental illness. Extreme weather events can impacts mental health in several ways, both in immediate anxiety-related responses, as well as chronic mental health disorders. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD; a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically occurring in the winter months) leads to insomnia, anxiety, and agitation. Flooding and prolonged droughts have been associated with with elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). Tropical cyclones are no exception and can wreak havoc beyond the images of flattened buildings, uprooted trees, and flooded streets that take over news coverage.

A home in Gulfport, Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. Courtesy NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge.
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Connection Between Earth’s Temperature and Hurricane Strength

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season officially begins in four days, although we’ve already had our first named storm – Tropical Storm Arthur. Tropical cyclones are among nature’s most powerful and destructive phenomena, and scientists are growing more confident that the increase in Earth’s surface temperatures is impacting the intensity of tropical cyclones. A new collaborative study that further explored this hypothesis was published last month by scientists from the Center for Weather and Climate (NOAA/NCEI) and the Cooperative Insitute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisonsin-Madison.

A NOAA GOES East satellite captured this shot of Hurricane Dorian fifteen minutes before making landfall over Cape Hatteras, North Carolina at 8:35 AM EDT Friday, September 6, 2019. Image courtesy NOAA NESDIS.
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A Look Back at Hurricane Michael

Three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since Hurricane Michael crashed into the Florida Panhandle, causing utter devastation. Michael made history as the first Category 5 hurricane (the highest category of the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds over 157 miles per hour) to make landfall in the Unites States since Andrew in 1992. It was also the first Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael beginning to make landall on October 10, 2018. Courtesy NASA
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