I was able to conduct interviews with former IPCC authors Mike Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf last month, just after the most recent report summary was released. Good basic intro for anyone that needs to be briefed quickly.
I live nowhere near the flood areas, but my sisters and their families live in Boulder and Colorado Springs. Last night my sister in Boulder was trapped for a few hours because streets on the north and south of her house turned into rivers. Her house still stands, thankfully. The Broadway bridge over Boulder Creek is usually about 15 feet from the water, yesterday the water was within inches of the bridge.
The Twitter hashtag #COFloods is a good resource for news and images on this significant weather event.
So far, about 172 people are unaccounted for in Boulder County. There are 4 confirmed fatalities. Residents were being rescued by helicopter all day today in the little mountain community of Jamestown, CO.
The weather is expected to dry out and we’ll get a more detailed picture of the damage. Initial reports aren’t looking good.
— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) September 14, 2013
— CBSDenver (@CBSDenver) September 14, 2013
This flood has been reported in media as a “100-year flood,” though scientists are trying to change that. Meteorologists actually define this as a flood that has a .1% chance of happening on any given day. Very long odds, indeed.
Boulder is home to many scientists, so no doubt this weather event will be scrutinized and studied, as it should. With weather records going back hundreds of years and many many records being shattered regularly, climate science surely is something we as a species cannot ignore.
With those thoughts, here’s a cute picture taken from the floods.
— Charlie Vogel (@teleskiguy) September 13, 2013
We can’t do anything about the oppressive heat wave that’s cooking states across the nation’s Southwest.
We can, though, wish everyone the best and point to the always-important tips and guidance for how to stay safe when temperatures soar well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Those include:
— Stay inside if you have air conditioning. Go to a library, store or cooling center if you don’t.
— Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
— Slow down. This isn’t a time to be outside exercising.
And we can also point you to sites that are tracking the news from Death Valley, Calif., where it’s possible that some time this weekend the all-time record high of 134 degrees will be threatened:
— There’s this National Weather Service page that’s being updated with readings. As of 5:10 a.m. local time Saturday (8:10 a.m. ET), the temperature was 98 degrees.
— And The Atlantic Wire has created a little graphic that it’s updating with the same information.
Surf forecasting has come a long way. This is a clear and well-written analysis of the storm that created the recent run of XXL surf in Tahiti.
The numbers are in: 2012, the year of a surreal March heat wave, a severe drought in the Corn Belt and a huge storm that caused broad devastation in the Middle Atlantic States, turns out to have been the hottest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States.
How hot was it? The temperature differences between years are usually measured in fractions of a degree, but last year’s 55.3 degree average demolished the previous record, set in 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit.
If that does not sound sufficiently impressive, consider that 34,008 daily high records were set at weather stations across the country, compared with only 6,664 record lows, according to a count maintained by the Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton, using federal temperature records.
That ratio, which was roughly in balance as recently as the 1970s, has been out of whack for decades as the country has warmed, but never by as much as it was last year.
From the New Yorker, James Surowiecki writes:
There is no dearth of promising ideas out there, such as building a seawall beyond the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (the Dutch engineering firm Arcadis has proposed a movable barrier, like the Rotterdam one), burying power lines in vulnerable areas, and elevating buildings and subway entrances. The question is whether we can find the political will to invest in such ideas. Although New York politicians like the City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have called for major new investment in disaster prevention, reports from Washington suggest that Congress will be more willing to spend money on relief than on preparedness. That’s what history would lead you to expect: for the most part, the U.S. has shown a marked bias toward relieving victims of disaster, while underinvesting in prevention. A study by the economist Andrew Healy and the political scientist Neil Malhotra showed that, between 1985 and 2004, the government spent annually, on average, fifteen times as much on disaster relief as on preparedness.
We need to update and expand our nation’s infrastructure for two reasons- to save lives, and to save money. Like, lots of money:
Meaningful disaster-prevention measures will certainly be expensive: estimates for a New York seawall range from ten to twenty billion dollars. That may seem unreasonable at a time when Washington is obsessed with cutting the federal deficit. Yet inaction can be even more expensive—after Katrina, the government had to spend more than a hundred billion dollars on relief and reconstruction—and there are good reasons to believe that disaster-control measures could save money in the long run. The A.S.C.E. estimates that federal spending on levees pays for itself six times over, and studies of other flood-control measures in the developed world find benefit-to-cost ratios of three or four to one. The value for money is even higher in poor countries, where floods obliterate weak infrastructures. And a 2005 independent study of disaster-mitigation grants made by fema found that every dollar in grants ended up saving taxpayers $3.65 in avoided costs.
Whenever I read a story like this, I’m reminded of Japan. Japan was able to become an international power by going abroad and studying how other nations operated, and then copied what worked. If the United States is to remain competitive, then we need to start looking at what other nations are doing, and adapt it to suit our needs.
An unscientific survey of the social networking literature on Sandy reveals an illuminating tweet (you read that correctly) from Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. On Oct. 29, Foley thumbed thusly: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.” Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund (and former deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek), offers a baseball analogy: “We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”
In the waning weeks of the North American hurricane season — a time when a superstorm is not expected to cause widespread damage to the eastern coast of the United States — Hurricane Sandy is a grim reminder of the menace of extreme weather events. With the lowest central pressure of the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy may have caused up to $20 billion in damages, making it one of the costliest superstorms in history.
Sandy interacted with a weather system moving toward it from the east, posing difficult challenges for forecasters and nearly unprecedented weather conditions for the region. A similar storm hit New England 20 years ago. But Sandy was worse, delivering hurricane-strength winds, drenching rains, and severe coastal flooding throughout the populous mid-Atlantic and northeast corridor.
Some people will, of course, try to link Sandy with climate change. A similar rush to judgment occurred in the wake of massive tornado outbreaks in the U.S. in recent years, even though the scientific literature does not offer strong support for such a connection. So, from the perspective of climate change, it is best to take a measured view of Sandy, lest hasty reaction harm scientific credibility.
But that is little cause for comfort. According to the giant insurance company Munich Re, weather and climate disasters contributed to more than one-third of a trillion dollars in damage worldwide in 2011, and this year’s total may rival that amount.
There is growing evidence of links between climate change and sea-level rise, heat waves, droughts and rainfall intensity, and, although scientific research on hurricanes and tornadoes is not as conclusive, that may be changing.
The projected storm surge from Hurricane Sandy is a “worst case scenario” with devastating waves and tides predicted for the highly populated New York City metro area, government forecasters said Sunday.
The more they observe it, the more the experts worry about the water — which usually kills and does more damage than winds in hurricanes.
In this case, seas will be amped up by giant waves and full-moon-powered high tides. That will combine with drenching rains, triggering inland flooding as the hurricane merges with a winter storm system that will worsen it and hold it in place for days.
Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that given Sandy’s due east-to-west track into New Jersey, that puts the worst of the storm surge just north in New York City, Long Island and northern New Jersey. “Yes, this is the worst case scenario,” he said.
In a measurement of pure kinetic energy, NOAA’s hurricane research division on Sunday ranked the surge and wave “destruction potential” for Sandy — just the hurricane, not the hybrid storm it will eventually become — at 5.8 on a 0 to 6 scale. The damage expected from winds will be far less, experts said. Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters says that surge destruction potential number is a record and it’s due to the storm’s massive size.