How Hurricane Sandy sobered us all, and what we should know.

How Hurricane Sandy sobered us all, and what we should know.

Mary A Moore

Oct 2012

It has been a while since we had experienced the full fury of nature in a major urban area, and Hurricane Sandy helped to sober us all. Hurricanes are one of the more damaging events we experience on a semi-regular basis. We understand the immediate impacts. Flooding, electrical disruption, communication and transportation disruption, destroyed properties and lost lives. Even in relatively remote places from the full fury of the storm such as Toronto, a women was killed from an store sign that had been ripped off by the high winds. In closer to ground zero of land contact, social media sites were full of pictures and video of how the water and wind had inundated the eastern seaboard. A tall ship, the HMS Bounty  had tested it’s fate and lost, sinking, killing one with another still missing, and  requiring a dramatic rescue. In a game of man vs nature, nature usually wins.

The question extreme weather events raise is whether global climate change is causing the change, or not. A recent poll in America that indicted that the extreme weather of late has done what a generation of climate scientists could not, convince people that climate change was happening. With power outages and flooding still a problem in major urban areas such as New York and other regions in the area, one could only infer this belief will increase in numbers. Canadians have been well acquainted with the issue of arctic ice melt escalating with a record being reached as of Sept 2012.  Dr. Jeff Masters WunderBlog states ‘The Arctic Dipole began emerging in the late 1990s, and was unknown before then; thus climate change is suspected as its primary cause. The Arctic Dipole has become increasingly common in the last six years, and has contributed significantly to the record retreat of Arctic sea ice.’ There has been the scientific evidence that both documented the normal cyclical variation (oscillations) and recent aberrations,  changes in other key markers such as CO2 content in the atmosphere and longitudinal temperature changes both on land and in the oceans, but it took a hurricane to explain what it meant in simple terms.

The second main question is what will happen, and how will the earth as a whole adapt? Conceptualizing climate change as a gestalt, or a whole  involves incorporating various concepts  such as Gaia theory, solar variations of late along with observations that Mars is experiencing warming, and Milankovitch theory which examines the historical orbital variations of the earth and corresponding changes in state in the earth’s energy equilibrium points. Key drivers such as solar energy, green house gases positive feedback loops, the destructive impact of mankind on the earth’s ability to moderate external changes via re-balancing internal environmental systems, and others, need to be considered before we start launching into a myriad of panicked attempts at Geo-engineering. We need a balanced discussion of whether we should focus on the revolutionary idea of geo-engineering that we can alter our current trajectory to a better place in the end, or whether we should spend our time towards adaption to the coming changes. There has been a tremendous amount of focus on carbon  and carbon sequestration in our atmosphere, despite the fact we may have hit enough of an orbital and solar energy variation to shift the stable energy state of the planet, and our increasing carbon levels may just be a moot observation of a possible tipping point in a larger dynamic, rather than a key causation. Trying to control a positive feedback loop would be difficult at best. In this case correcting the carbon at best will likely only delay the inevitable, and may have only a marginal effect. That would be a gross error if this is the case.

Other questions include how would we as a globalized world decide what will be done, and gather available resources to work together? Is there going to be a global vote? How is information distributed?

The next step we should see, aside from more extreme weather from increasing energy entropy, is the flooding that results from polar ice melting, rising sea levels in combination with increased storm activity should result in even more flooding. To make matters worse, there is a suppression of conversation about these critical issues, such as the ban in North Carolina about a report that observed increased ocean levels were not uniform.

‘Asbury Sallenger, an oceanographer at the USGS in St. Petersburg, Fla., and his colleagues published their report in Nature Climate Change. They analyzed tide-gauge records from around North America from between 1950 and 2009, and found that the rates of sea-level rise along the northern half of the eastern seaboard — from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to Boston — were increasing three to four times faster than the global rates.

Sea levels on this stretch of coast have climbed by between 2 and 3.7 mm per year since 1980, whereas the global increase over the same period was 0.6-1.0 mm per year.’

If the general public knew in North Carolina, from an unrestricted press, that the ocean levels were increasing in their area, would they take storms such as Sandy more seriously? Did the crew of the Bounty know? Would it have mattered? More importantly do we all have an equal right to know? Should the ‘right to know’ be considered a basic global human right?

As we still have to overcome the devastation that Sandy brought us, perhaps it is time to have an international discussion on the issues raised.

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