Soggy Halloween Central USA (lessons from Superstorm Sandy)
“…123 million Americans, more than a third of the entire country, live in coastal counties, a number that increased by 39% from 1970 to 2010. About 3.7 million Americans live within just a few feet of the sea at high tide, putting them at even more extreme risk for coastal flooding…” – from a Time Magazine retrospective of Sandy, details below. Map above showing Sandy storm surge flooding vs. Cat 4 storm surge potential flooding courtesy of the Capital Weather Gang – details below.
650,000 U.S. homes damaged or destroyed by Sandy. Source: NBC News.
“…The results highlight four main factors that control storm surge: The shape of a coastline, the depth of coastal water, and the wind speed and storm size prior to landfall, specifically, about 18 hours before a storm hits land… – from a Live Science story below focused on why the Saffir Simpson Scale for rating hurricane intensity can’t be relied upon for estimating storm surge heights.
Sandy was a poignant reminder that meteorological gains (better models, more accurate hurricane tracks) have outpaced our ability to effectively communicate risk. Social science matters; how people process information and make decisions that keep them safer.
Sandy took a 1-in-700-year turn into New Jersey – virtually unheard of in late October. A mash-up of Nor’easter & dying hurricane, Sandy was 3 times larger than Katrina; tropical storm force winds encompassed a 1,000 mile radius. Hurricane warnings were (mistakenly) discontinued as Sandy approached land but the combination of high tide, a full moon & sustained winds near hurricane-force pushed an historic 14 foot surge into lower Manhattan.
We knew it would be bad, but it’s hard communicating impacts of a storm that is so outside the norm; an almost incomprehensible weather event. Rising sea levels have doubled the risk of similar storms for many U.S. coastal regions.
Image credit above: CIMSS/SSEC/University of Wisconsin-Madison and NOAA/NASA/JPSS Project.
A Year After Sandy, Living Dangerously By The Sea. What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. At some point, as seas continue to rise, rebuilding next to the ocean won’t make much sense – it will become prohibitively expensive, and U.S. taxpayers won’t keep picking up the tab. Time Magazine has the article and video clip; here’s an excerpt: “…Here’s a fact about Sandy that might surprise you: when the storm made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, it wasn’t actually a hurricane. Its wind speed had fallen below the 74 m.p.h. sustained velocity that’s needed to change a tropical storm into a hurricane. Instead Sandy was officially a “post-tropical cyclone.” And while the storm certainly dropped a lot of water on the belt of heavily affected states between South Carolina and New York — 7 in. or more in many places — it wasn’t the precipitation alone that led to the devastating floods that followed in its wake, causing more than $68 billion in damages. What made Sandy devastating was its size, covering more than 1,000 miles, the coastal storm surges it caused, and the way the force of the cyclone — which took an unusual path almost directly at the East Coast — pushed the sea and rivers up and over onto land, spilling out into streets and inundating nearby infrastructure…”
Hurricane Sandy Anniversary: Dealing With The Psychological Scars One Year Later. Psychologists talk about a weather-version of PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the same thing tornado and flood victims also cope with post-storm. Here’s a clip from a story at Fox News: “…Coming up on an anniversary of something like a traumatic event can ramp things up and people can feel highly anxious and depressed,” Dr. Rachel Yehuda, director of the traumatic stress studies division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, told FoxNews.com. “It’s a time where there is a natural spike in symptoms, especially on a first year anniversary.” According to Yehuda, some people who have experienced storm-related trauma, such as the loss of a loved one or the loss of a home, can undergo what is known as an “anniversary reaction.” Every year on the date of the traumatic event, people may suffer from a resurgence of depressive symptoms and painful memories. These symptoms can range from mild feelings of distress to significant psychiatric and medical effects…”
Reinsurer Tracks Natural Disasters, Tallies Devastating Effects. Here’s a clip fromThe Hartford Courant: “…The total cost of weather-related disasters in North America to insurance companies, and to the economy overall, has trended upward between 1980 and 2011, Munich Re says. In 2012, Sandy alone cost insurers $18.7 billion — more than the total cost of all hail, thunderstorms and tornadoes combined during the active 2011 storm season that destroyed property from Springfield, Mass., to Joplin, Mo., according to the Insurance Information Institute, a property-casualty research entity…”
Sandy Exposes Federal Flood Insurance To Political Pressure. Premiums are spiking near the water, local homeowners are howling, and now their elected representatives are feeling the heat, as reported at The Street; here’s an excerpt: “Although health insurance gets the headlines, it’s flood insurance that’s driving people crazy, one year after Superstorm Sandy. The people who want to rebuild face low payouts from the federal insurance pool and huge premium hikes to replenish the same pool. All this could delay the rebuilding process by years. The risks of floods, and the catastrophic losses from floods, have long forced beachfront property into a special, federal risk pool,the National Flood Insurance Program…”
Photo credit: Mike Groll, AP.
4 Reasons You Should Worry About Another Sandy. Mother Jones has the story – here’s a clip: “…According to NASA researchers, Sandy’s particular track made it a 1-in-700 year storm event. It was, to put it mildly, meteorologically suspicious. So now, with a year’s distance and a lot of thought and debate, what can we say about climate change and Sandy—and hurricanes in general? A lot, as it turns out. Here’s what we know:
Flash Floods And Debris Flows: How To Manage Nature’s Runaway Freight Trains. Here’s an excerpt of an interesting follow-up on recent fires and flash floods in Colorado, courtesy of Science Daily: “…One of the big science advances has been in the U.S. Geological Survey’s debris flow models. These models have helped explain, for instance, where these potentially deadly flows are most likely to happen and how large they might be. “We’ve learned that debris flows are likely from burned area for the first two years after a wildfire.” says DeGraff. “But the chance of flash floods lasts a little longer.” This kind of information helps determine what kinds of treatments might be done to mitigate damage...”
Air Pollution Sickening Computers Too. Just when you thought you had seen everything, along comes this story from AP and The Seattle Times; here’s an excerpt: “In a windowless lab at its Hillsboro campus, Intel scientists are brewing foul air so they can study the effects of air pollution on the innards of computers — a step toward figuring out how to protect electronics in markets such as India and China that have big pollution problems and the potential for big sales growth. So far, the scientists tell The Oregoniannewspaper, there have been no breakthroughs as they load test tubes of pressurized hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and chlorine, and calibrate their effects on electronics…”
Riding “The Big One”. Good grief, a 77 foot wave? The stuff of watery nightmares. This was off the coast of Portugal, a possible new world record for surfing the biggest wave. Some witnesses estimated that it was more than 100 feet high. Here’s a post (and amazing video clip) from Surfer Today: “The Brazilian crew traveled to Portugal with a goal in mind. To beat the Guinness World Record for the largest wave ever surfed, which belongs to the Hawaiian hellman, Garrett McNamara. Carlos Burle, Pedro Scooby, Felipe Cesarano, and Maya Gabeira had big hopes for the European super swell. On the 28th October, 2013, Burle claimed one of the biggest wave ever ridden at Praia do Norte. The first pictures show that he may be above the world record set by Garrett McNamara, at 23.77 m (78 feet), measured from trough to crest, on the 1st November 2011…”
What Happened To Just Watching Sesame Street? From Marketplace: “A new studyfrom the group Common Sense Media found that 38 percent of children under two have used a mobile device, like an iPhone or tablet computer. That’s up from 10 percent just two years ago. The earliest of adopters“
U.S. Says It Won’t Back New, International Coal-Fired Power Plants. The number one thing we can do, worldwide, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Phase out coal-fired power plants, convert them to natural gas or retire them altogether. Sequestering CO2 underground (carbon sequestration) hasn’t been proven to be even remotely cost-effective. And no, this probably won’t happen anytime soon, but the market is doing what regulation can’t – relatively cheap natural gas is powering an increasing percentage of the grid, producing roughly half the carbon emissions. Here’s an excerpt from The New York Times: “In an aggressive move to impose President Obama’s environmental policies overseas, the Treasury Department on Tuesday largely declared an end to United States support for new coal-fired power plants around the world. The decision means that Mr. Obama’s administration will no longer contribute to coal projects financed by the World Bank and other international development banks…” (Photo: AP File).
Storm-Ready Cities: How Climate Resilience Boosts Metro Areas And The Economy. The Center for American Progress has the article; here’s a clip: “…Many city leaders—such as those in New York City, Washington, D.C., Houston, and Miami— are developing innovative strategies to reduce the risks from extreme weather. These leaders recognize that increasing their cities’ resilience to climate change not only keeps people and businesses out of harm’s way, but also—if done right—drives economic growth and improves the quality of life in metro areas. These leaders are working to meet priorities such as upgrading public transit and other infrastructure, providing cleaner and more reliable energy, creating jobs, attracting new businesses, improving air quality, and expanding parks and green spaces. To adequately prepare our nation for the impacts of climate change, more metro areas must follow their lead…”
U.S. Viewpoint: Earth Dangerously Warming – And We Are Causing It. Here’s an excerpt from an article at Independent Catholic News: “…“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. … It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” states the IPCC report. In his 2010 World Day of Peace message titled ‘If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation,’ Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI boldly wrote: “Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions?” We remain indifferent at our own risk – and that of future generations.” (image above: NASA).