(CNN)Hurricane Laura was a formidable storm when it made landfall in Louisiana on Thursday.
Laura broke multiple records, including the highest water level ever recorded at the Mermentau River gauge at Grand Chenier location. The gauge topped out at 17.14 feet, more than 4 feet above the previous high of 13 feet from Hurricane Audrey in June 1957, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Another notable record was that Laura was the seventh named storm to make landfall in the US so far in 2020, the most to do so before the end of August (four tropical storms and three hurricanes). This begs the question, why are so many more named storms impacting the US?
The planet has warmed significantly over the past several decades, causing changes in the environment in which extreme weather events are occurring.
A study of 40 years of satellite data of global storms by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that the probability of storms reaching major hurricane status -- Category 3 or above with sustained winds of 110 mph or higher -- has increased decade after decade.
The study found that hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones worldwide are becoming stronger and potentially more deadly as the globe warms due to the climate crisis.
"The change is about 8% per decade," Jim Kossin, author of the study, told CNN in May when the study was released. "In other words, during its lifetime, a hurricane is 8% more likely to be a major hurricane in this decade compared to the last decade."
What makes a hurricane powerful?
One way a hurricane strengthens is by traveling over warm water. Ocean surface water temperature needs to be at least 80 degrees -- more than 86 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal -- with that heat extending beneath the surface. High-altitude winds need to be calm, so they don't disrupt thunderstorm activity.
When Laura moved through the Gulf of Mexico, sea surface temperatures were in the upper 80s.
A storm's internal conditions also must be exactly right. A hurricane needs a way to ventilate, much like a car engine, so it can continue to process all of the fuel from the warm water and use it to strengthen the storm.
According to the National Hurricane Center, rapid intensification is when a tropical system sees a sustained wind increase of at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less. Laura's wind speed increased 45 mph in 24 hours, going from 65 mph to 110 mph between 5 a.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Not all climate change is equal
It is important to note that no one single storm can be attributed to climate change. Laura alone was not created solely by climate change. In fact, you could make a bigger argument that the absence of El Nino, (or even the forecast presence of La Nina) was more of a cause. But strong, rapidly intensifying storms like Laura are more likely to occur in general thanks to climate change.
Due to climate change, ocean temperatures are well above normal. The warmer the ocean is when a tropical system moves into it, the more likely it is to intensify.