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This is the new normal, warn climate scientists

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Dramatic vision of Sandy's arrival

RAW VISION: A man in Wantagh, New York captures the wrath of Hurricane Sandy's arrival outside his front window.

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HURRICANE Sandy was a bigger, fiercer and more damaging storm because of human-induced global warming, an analysis produced by Australia's Climate Commission has found.

The burning of fossil fuels had made a material contribution to the atmospheric conditions that bred and sustained the storm, the report said, echoing international studies produced over the past few days.

On Thursday the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, endorsed Barack Obama in the US presidential election, citing the urgency of tackling climate change.

Devastation: NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in Queens.

Devastation: NYC Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in Queens. Photo: AFP

''Our climate is changing,'' Mr Bloomberg wrote in an opinion article. ''And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be - given this week's devastation - should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.''

Hurricane Sandy, the biggest tropical cyclone to make landfall on the US east coast, caused widespread damage in the Caribbean and the US, killing at least 162 people.

Key factors set the scene for the ferocious storm, the climate commission's report said: sea levels that had risen about 20 centimetres in the past century, moisture levels in the air about 5 per cent above pre-industrial levels, and hotter oceans.

Part of a home rests upside-down in Seaside Heights, N.J Click for more photos

Sandy aftermath

America wakes to the destruction caused by superstorm Sandy. Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez

''The shifts in this background state towards a more energetic climate system - higher temperatures and more moisture in the air - are becoming the 'new normal' and are influencing the nature and intensity of weather patterns around the world,'' the report said.

''All the evidence suggests that climate change exacerbated the severity of hurricane Sandy.''

The surface temperature of the Atlantic waters from which hurricane Sandy drew its energy were three to five degrees higher than average, the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration said.

The chairman of the climate commission's science advisory panel, Matthew England, said hotter air and seas, coupled with higher sea levels, inevitably led to a more intense storm.

''Because of these three factors, it's valid to say that the impact of every storm we have is in some way being influenced by climate change,'' Professor England told Fairfax.

''Asking 'Is this caused by climate change' is not the right question, but 'Has this been influenced by climate change?' is the relevant question.

''If somebody's been smoking all their life and they get lung cancer, you still can't categorically say that smoking caused the cancer. It could have been caused because they lived in a city with poor air quality, it could have been caused by an undetected melanoma.

''So the cause is hard to pin down; but we do know categorically that if you smoke, you are much more likely to get cancer.''

The commission's report drew the link between human burning of fossil fuels and the storm.

''The extent to which climate change accelerates into the future is directly tied to the decisions we make today on fossil fuel burning and other activities that raise the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,'' it said.

''In the future, devastating storms such as hurricane Sandy and cyclone Yasi will become much more common unless carbon dioxide levels are stabilised in the atmosphere at safe levels.

''This requires urgent action on carbon dioxide emissions.''

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