From the darkened living rooms of Lower Manhattan to the wave-battered shores of Lake Michigan, the question is occurring to millions of people at once: Did the enormous scale and damage from Hurricane Sandy have anything to do with climate change?
A hurricane barrier in Stamford, Conn. Experts say that the storm, whatever its causes, should be seen as a warning. More Photos »
Hesitantly, climate scientists offered an answer this week that is likely to satisfy no one, themselves included. They simply do not know for sure if the storm was caused or made worse by human-induced global warming.
They do know, however, that the resulting storm surge along the Atlantic coast was almost certainly intensified by decades of sea-level rise linked to human emissions of greenhouse gases. And they emphasized that Hurricane Sandy, whatever its causes, should be seen as a foretaste of trouble to come as the seas rise faster, the risks of climate change accumulate and the political system fails to respond.