Can San Diego and other West Coast metro areas make money because of the hurricane-prone eastern U.S. and the Caribbean? Florida and Caribbean islands are tourist havens. Now some of those areas lie in ruins as a result of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Harvey clobbered Houston, and earlier, Katrina crippled New Orleans and Sandy bashed the East Coast from Florida to Maine.
If what’s called “global warming” or the less apocalyptic “climate change” is real and a cause of such calamaties, can we expect that in the short or long run the West Coast will be stealing visitors, and perhaps house hunters, from the East?
The answer is it’s possible but not in great numbers, and only in the short run. But let’s look first at the science involved.
(Embedded in the definitions of “global warming” and “climate change” are assumptions that increased levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants are causes of the increasingly warm earth, and that humans are greatly responsible. Global warming deniers concede that the earth has gotten warmer in the past 30 years, but, they say, the earth has gone through many periods of warming and cooling. Generally, deniers doubt human activity is to blame. This column is aimed at both believers and deniers.)
It is true that the West Coast almost never gets hit by hurricanes. As Scientific American explains, “Hurricanes in the northern hemisphere form at tropical and subtropical latitudes and then tend to move toward the west-northwest.” On the East Coast, they head toward land. On the West Coast, they tend to head farther out to sea. Also, along the East Coast, the Gulf Stream can push water temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and hurricanes are fueled by the heat energy stored in warm ocean water. By contrast, “Along the West Coast, [water] temperatures rarely rise above the lower 70s Fahrenheit.” But it is true that “occasionally, tropical storms do strike coastal southern…