Was Hurricane Sandy Caused by Global Warming?

As widespread power outages and flooding affect millions on the East Coast, speculation continues as to whether or not the super storm was caused by climate change.

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Millions were paralyzed by Hurricane Sandy as the storm swept up the East Coast Monday night into Tuesday. The storm made landfall in New Jersey but shut down federal government offices, public transportation systems, and schools in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Before Sandy started towards the United States, it was responsible for over 60 deaths in the Caribbean. So far 18 have been reported dead across seven states, and millions are without power from the Carolinas to Ohio. New York City was hit particularly hard, with Lower Manhattan and seven subway tunnels in the East River flooding. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it could be four or five days before subway service is restored.

[ See Photos: Hurricane Sandy Brings Dangerous Floods.]

As the disastrous effects of the storm become clear Tuesday, speculation begins as to whether or not the extreme weather event was caused by global warming. The topic remains controversial in the American political landscape, while research shows that climate change does have an effect on the severity and increased frequency in such storms. A recent report from University of Copenhagen's Centre for Ice and Climate said hurricanes in the southeast Atlantic have become more frequent over the past 90 years, with more storms in years where water temperature is higher.

"You can't say [global warming] caused any single event, but when we start to see a trend like this, I think it shows that there's a good chance these hurricanes wouldn't be happening without warming," said one of the report’s authors, Aslack Grinsted. "What I show is only correlation, but it's purely consistent with the hypothesis that warming goes along with more frequent, large hurricanes."

[ Read: Hurricane Sandy May Force Pols to Discuss Climate Change]

Despite scientific evidence such as that found in the University of Copenhagen report, there continues to be disagreement as to whether or not humans are truly responsible for systematic warming and thus the subsequent severe weather events. Skeptics argue that the number of variables that go into the creation of a storm such as Hurricane Sandy makes it impossible to prove global warming was responsible:

"You can't take one rogue event like this and start ascribing anything but the current three phasing conditions that are leading to it," said David Robinson, a Rutgers University professor and New Jersey's state climatologist.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

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