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What if Sandy had been a real Hurricane?

The term "Superstorm Sandy" irks some who think it should just be called a hurricane, rather than hyped into something special. Six months after the landmark event, it turns out that Superstorm may be exactly the right term, but perhaps not for the reason most assume.

NOAA - the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - which encompasses the National Weather Service felt it was appropriate to do a retro analysis of the event and the communications related to it, to learn lessons for the future. That report, "Hurricane/Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, October 22-29, 2012" was recently published in May 2013, about six months after the disaster. At 66 pages, it is comprehensive. Without going into detail, I will give you two key points that strike me as worth noting:

New Climate Action Plan from the White House

This afternoon at Georgetown University, President Obama will announce a far reaching program to reduce greenhouse gases, slow climate change and work harder to adapt. It is sure to be welcome news to those of us that have waited to hear his program

No doubt it will also fan the flames of those who dispute the science and do not want us to do anything to reduce greenhouse gases.  

I am making the 21 page document available here. There is a lot here to digest. I expect to have more to say about this in the days ahead. 

 

"Goodbye, Miami" in ROLLING STONE - July 4th

The year 2030 is the scene. Hurricane Milo has just ravaged Miami. Unlike other severe storms, this is "the nail in the coffin" for America's iconic city.

It is a riveting bold color spread starting on page 94 of the July 4th issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. Author Jeff Goodell describes in considerable detail a futuristic account of how the slowly rising ocean has been taking a toll for many decades, inexorably adding to the expense and deterioration of the mostly flat city built on porous limestone. He points out how that geologic achilles heel makes sea walls ineffective in keeping water out. A rising sea would simply bubble up through the ground behind any coastal barrier.

Following the fictional scenario he looks at the decades of denial and hubris including the present era with politicians, residents, and

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN "Storm of the Century Every 2 Years"

The latest issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has a terrific 3 part feature about Sea Level Rise, Storm Surge, and Adaptation. The lead is: "Storm of the Century -- Every Two Years". 

Definitely worth buying, either as a magazine or digital download. Some quotes provide a glimpse of the story.

"The U.S.'s largest metropolis and the entire east coast could face frequent destruction unless the region takes previously unthinkable actions..."

"By 2100 devastating flooding of the sort that Superstorm Sandy unleashed on New York City could happen every two years all along the valuable and densely populated U.S. east coast—anywhere from Boston to Miami."

"Sandy was a one in 500 year storm. If sea level rises by five feet, the chance in any year of a storm bringing a three foot surge to New York City will increase to as high as one in three or even one in two, according to various projections. The 100 year height for a storm in the year 2000 would be reached by a two year storm in 2100."

Tornadoes and the New Abnormal Weather Pattern

The devastating killer tornadoes that hit Oklahoma Monday have again brought up the question of whether this is related to the larger "weird weather" or changing climate, with various spins in the media depending on the way the question is framed.

Looking at the big picture, it is part of what I call the "New Abnormal." While it can be seen as part of climate change and global warming, it might be seen as evidence of "climate destabilization" as I mentioned in a previous post.

We have come to expect weather patterns as normal over the recent centuries. That applies to the obvious seasons of winter, summer, spring, and fall. It also applies to the months of hurricane season, the patterns of "April showers bring May flowers" and all the predictable calendar patterns of weather. That was the "normal."

To understand why the "New Abnormal" is replacing those patterns that we have come to

Visiting Dutch Coastal Defenses Makes a Big Impression

Today is the last day of our week long study group to the Netherlands to share concepts about coastal defense. It has been an incredible experience. Yesterday we visited the huge Maeslant Barrier built to protect the Port of Rotterdam from storm surge and sea level rise.

For a sense of scale, the laticed support structure behind each of the two gates is the same size as the Eiffel Tower. (Photo courtesy of Rijkswaterstaat - the Dutch government agency in charge of water.)

Each gate is 240 meters long (787 feet). It takes two hours to close the gates and flood them with water so that they submerge to close the waterway. They are automatically activated when the water height is 3 meters (10 feet) above normal. They made a strategic decision that the operation would be initiated by

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