The legendary Jimmy Cornell shares his thoughts on climate change and the impact of that change on yachting in the near future.
Changing of the climate
The routes of ships (and yachts in particular) mainly depend on the weather. Sometimes it seems that the weather practically does not change over the years. Naturally, if we take a specific small region as an observable object, then it seems that everything is static. However, profound global changes are noticeable on a planetary scale. And every year they become more and more obvious.
The saddest and most difficult thing is the realization that all these climate changes are extremely difficult to predict. Increasingly, weather anomalies of any kind are occurring where previously they were not even known. Rains and snow out of season, snowfalls and frosts where it was warm all year round - all these are just the tip of the iceberg. Some tropical storms are stronger than almost anything scientists have recorded years ago.
Jimmy Cornell wrote in a 1994 preface to the third edition of World Cruise Itineraries: “The depletion of the ozone layer and the gradual rise in the temperature of the oceans will undoubtedly affect the weather around the world. This increases the risk of more severe tropical storms. Of unimaginable strength, recent mega-hurricanes should be a warning. A warning that even worse things are ahead of us.
All we can do is heed these warnings, make sure that the seaworthiness of our boats is beyond doubt. And, if possible, limit our travels to safe seasons. In addition, since the sailing community is so dependent on the forces of nature, we must be the first to protect the environment. We must not contribute to its soulless destruction.”
These words, even after almost 30 years, are more relevant than ever. Over the past years, weather and climate have undergone significant changes. How can we, sailing enthusiasts and cruisers, plan travel, recreation and leisure? How to prepare your beloved boat for potential climate issues?
Rising ocean temperatures
In April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its sixth assessment of the impacts of global climate change. The Commission warned that the recent upward trend in climate change is setting dangerous precedents in the form of potential cataclysms. According to experts, this is already affecting the lives of at least a billion people. The Commission calls for action to be taken as soon as possible.
A short list of what has been happening to nature in recent decades:
- The Arctic ice cap is melting much faster than in the last hundred years of observations. This is reported by scientists from Greenland.
- Tropical storm seasons are increasingly less clearly defined.
- Storms become more sudden, and the period of their activity more blurred in time.
- Out-of-season tropical storms are becoming more common.
- The speed of the Gulf Stream is slowing down (due to which, where it used to be warm, it gets colder, and where it was cold, it gets warmer)
- Corals are dying due to warming oceans.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature also published its report in 2022. The outcome of the report was the recognition of the problem of the astonishing rate of increase in the temperature of the oceans. The Union has recognized warming waters as the biggest hidden problem of our generation. Warming oceans are changing the distribution and food chains of marine species, from microscopic molluscs to whales.
Because of this, fishing areas are changing (at best) or shrinking (at worst). This causes the spread of previously atypical human diseases.
According to recent studies and analyzes, it became known that if right now the oceans stopped absorbing the heat of the atmosphere due to excessive carbon dioxide content, then the general temperature on the surface of the planet would rise by 36 degrees. Yes, add another 36 degrees to the average European evening +15 Celsius.
Rising temperatures are already leading to an increase in the number of off-season tropical storms. According to NOAA (US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), an increase in the number of hurricanes of the 4th and 5th categories is likely, while the speed of hurricane winds will increase by 10%.
Nature itself hints that there is a limit to everything. The 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season was such a signal. He became the most active in the history of observations. Of the 30 named storms, 13 developed into hurricanes, and six intensified to super-hurricanes. NOAA forecasters predict that hurricane activity will be above average in 2022. This will be the seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.
Seasonal storms and cyclones are an important guideline for travel planning. One of the main intermediate outcomes of climate change is the appearance of tropical storms outside of the accepted time frames.
The official North Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 to November 30. In recent years, some hurricanes appear as early as the end of May. Over the past 10 years, 5 out of 161 hurricanes have occurred in May. The earliest of these was Hurricane Ana on May 8-11, 2018. "Ana" affected the southeastern United States.
These factors need to be considered when planning a trip to or from the Caribbean. Arrival in the Eastern Caribbean should be planned for early December.
An active 2022 hurricane season is also expected in the North Pacific between Mexico, Central America and Hawaii. The behavior of hurricanes here is similar to the North Atlantic. That is, the season is expanding and becoming less predictable.
Making planning more difficult
The situation with hurricanes is indicative. All the above data is extremely important for sailing planning. Moreover, these statistics help to understand where and when it is better not to stay on your boat.
In the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, an equally unpleasant attack. There, the frequency and strength of typhoons increases. However, some supertyphoons have gusts of 200 knots or more. Typhoons are recorded every month of the year. Because of this, the well-defined safe season is becoming a thing of the past.
In the Indian Ocean, and specifically in its northern part, the destructive power of cyclones has increased. In 2020, four strong cyclones were recorded, in 2021 - two strong ones. The trend in the southern hemisphere is the same.
In the southern Indian and Pacific Oceans, the cyclone season has become longer. At the same time, the frequency of off-season cyclones also increased. In the Coral Sea, off-season cyclones were recorded in late June, July and even September.
Polls and interesting results
I have been monitoring the world's weather conditions since the 1980s, not only for my own interest, but also to update my books (including World Cruise Itineraries). No less important, as it turned out, were surveys of long-distance sailors. This experience has become extremely valuable and important. I've been conducting surveys like this for nearly 40 years.
I interviewed over 50 sailors. Of course, the main topics were their views on climate change and its impact on future travel. Most of them are active sailors and yachtsmen. Most have completed at least one circumnavigation of the world.
Despite the factual accuracy, there were still people in the 2018 survey who doubted the reality and severity of global warming. A couple more people were skeptical that this would somehow affect the main routes.
Changes and a new formulation of the question
The logical development was that in the 2022 survey, everyone, with one exception, agreed with the reality of the threat. Moreover, the vast majority themselves told and described what kind of danger climate change poses for future travel and voyages. And we did not touch on the topic of the threat to humanity as a whole.
Some of those who participated in the survey expressed other concerns as well. Among the main ones were:
- overfishing in the oceans;
- environmental pollution, which now reaches even the most remote corners of the world;
- threat to tropical atolls and low-lying landmasses, and the displacement of their populations.
There was another interesting feature. The attitude of the local population towards visiting sailors began to change. This is evidenced by a number of incidents during the pandemic. Then many countries introduced draconian restrictions on visiting ships, which then could not continue sailing.
And yet the final question in the survey (or rather the answers to it) still says a lot about the situation. Sailors interviewed were asked: “Will climate change affect the decision to sail if you are now planning to circumnavigate the world?”
All but one responded that they would take this factor into account, but would still be prepared to plan and go on a long voyage.
What to look out for
Given the changed circumstances, here are some basic safety precautions to take when planning your trip now or in the near future:
- Make sure you don't arrive in the tropics too close to the start of the safe season, and give yourself a safe margin of time by leaving before it ends.
- Avoid cruises during the critical period and better leave the tropics.
- Constantly monitor the weather and have a plan B in case of an emergency
- If you plan to leave your yacht unattended, make sure your insurance company is informed and agrees with your plans.
On the insurance side, Rick De Cristofano, director of Topsail Insurance, says: “Climate change is likely to be a major topic for insurers in the next decade.
There is no doubt that climate change is causing more extreme weather events around the world. Most insurers have in-house forecasters who predict an increase in the frequency and strength of hurricanes and even less significant weather events such as "electrical" storms.
Insurers incorporate these projections into their loss models for future pricing. The impact on yacht owners will be both direct and indirect. Direct, most likely, will include an increase in restrictions on insurance coverage. On the indirect side, the insurance industry is preparing for larger and more catastrophic insured events that will eventually drive up the cost of a range of services.”
All we can do is try to reduce emissions, switch to green energy and promote the topic of climate issues. This is our first priority as yachtsmen and sailors.
Many of us, especially during long-distance crossings, can see the consequences of the life of our civilization. Huge floating islands of debris, leaks of dangerous substances, etc. That is why it is necessary to take care of the preservation of the oceans now.
Personally, I want to convey the beauty of the Ocean and the seas to future generations of sailors. I urge everyone not to stand aside and fight together for the future of our civilization!
Don't forget to rate the content! You can find other interesting articles on the links below or in the "News" section!
News and articles
Almost everyone has heard of the legendary Tahiti and Bora Bora in Polynesia. Even the laziest can already find Fiji and Tonga in the South Pacific. New Zealand is easy too. But ask most people to show New Caledonia on a map, and they won't even know which hemisphere to start looking in.Read more…