It’s almost as if we’re being sent a message: ‘Sandy’s fallout skips drought-plagued Midwest’ mitchellrepublic.com/event/apArticl…
— Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) November 1, 2012
[S]cientists are becoming ever less shy in drawing a line between a higher frequency of “extreme” weather events and a warming climate. Climate shifts the probability distribution of such events, and so global warming may not have “caused” Sandy, but it makes Sandy-like storms more probable. As the ever-less-funny joke goes, 500-year weather events seem to pop up every one or two years these days. Frequency and intensity of storms aside, future hurricanes that hit the east coast will do so atop rising sea levels. Contemplate the images of seawater rushing over Manhattan streets and into subway and highway tunnels. Then consider that sea levels are rising. And then reflect on the fact that New York is very much like a typical megacity in being located on the water; tracing a finger around America’s coastlines leads one past most of the country’s largest and richest cities.
Of course many saw this coming:
Science and its practical consort Engineering mostly come out of this week with enhanced reputations.
For some years now, various researchers have been predicting that such a trauma was not just possible but almost certain, as we raised the temperature and with it the level of the sea—just this past summer, for instance, scientists demonstrated that seas were rising faster near the northeast United States (for reasons having to do with alterations to the Gulf Stream) than almost anyplace on the planet. They had described, in the long run, the loaded gun, right down to a set of documents describing the precise risk to the New York subway system.
As nature pulled the trigger in mid-October, when a tropical wave left Africa and moved into the Atlantic and began to spin, scientists were able to do the short-term work of hurricane forecasting with almost eerie precision. Days before Sandy came ashore we not only knew approximately where it would go, but that its barometric pressure would drop below previous records and hence that its gushing surge would set new marks. The computer models dealt with the weird hybrid nature of the storm—a tropical cyclone hitting a blocking front—with real aplomb; it was a bravura performance.
In so doing, it should shame at least a little those people who argue against the computer modeling of climate change on the grounds that “they can’t even tell the weather three days ahead of time—how can they predict the climate?”
Then again, it could all be caused by “Mars wobbles” – over to you, Fox News.