There are estimates that I might cause $20 billion in damages in the US in addition to the $2+ billion in costs in the Caribbean. That’s a lot of money — enough to give every human on the planet $3. But it is only a fraction of the $600 billion the oil and gas industry is spending this year alone [2012 Harvard study, pg 8] in exploration and new production. That $600 billion investment in fossil fuels will bring far greater storms than I.
It will bring extreme weather no human has ever witnessed. And it will be an “investment” in extreme weather lasting more than a hundred years
So don’t curse me if your home is flooded, your life disrupted or worse. Hurricanes and tropical storms are the nature’s pressure relief valves. It’s not our fault we’ve been amped up on fossil-fuel ‘steroids’ you’ve put into the atmosphere. Everyday millions more tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) are added trapping ever more of the sun’s heat. A tonne of CO2 is about three barrels of oil.
Every tonne of CO2 ‘lives’ in the atmosphere for 100 years. That means every barrel of oil, tonne of coal or cubic foot of gas burned adds more CO2, trapping more and more of the sun’s heat for the next 100 years.
It’s curious you’d spend $600 billion on additional sources of fossil fuel when there is already more than enough production capacity to push CO2 levels from current the 390 parts per million (ppm) to far above 450 ppm. It’s a curious investment when your experts and leaders say they want to return to a safer level of 350 ppm.
Earlier I called myself a hybrid storm: part nature, part human. That’s not quite right. Humans and Hurricanes are part of nature. We both thrive on this planet thanks to sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Hurricanes and tropical storms have been around for millions of years. In the last 50 years things have changed. The oceans are warmer. This week the waters off the US east coast were 3 degrees C warmer than normal.
The air is warmer at 0.8C (1F) and there is 4 to 6 percent more moisture. This is a fundamental change. The amount of extra heat-energy is like exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year. This is one of the reasons why I am such a large and powerful storm.
All this extra heat is result of human activity — burning fossil fuels and clearing forests. You call these changes human-induced climate change or global warming. I am, in part, a result of human-caused climate change. And so were my 19 brother and sister hurricanes and tropical storms this year.
So what to call us? We need new words. Some call this time of major human impacts on the planet “The Anthropocene”. A big word to describe a big change: the era when humanity is influencing every aspect of life on the planet.
We are the Anthrostorms of the 21st century.
Hard to believe I was born only a week ago south of Jamaica. I grew very quickly over the hot Carribbean sea and last Wednesday swept into Jamaica west of Kingston with winds of 130 kph. Damage was extensive cutting power to half the country. One person died.
Last Thursday I was in Cuba, another poor country that can least afford to be damaged. Cuba is well organized to cope with powerful hurricanes. Just 35 deaths through 16 hurricanes and tropical storms since 2001.The US has fared far worse with fewer storms.
But I was a Category 2 when I arrived over Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city. Eleven people died, 3000 buildings destroyed, 30,000 lost their roofs. A billion dollars in damages. It will be a long recovery. The power is still out today.
In the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic more people died and thousands of homes were damaged.
Worst off was the most vulnerable of all: Haiti.
More than 50 people died in the southern Haiti including the area around Port-au-Prince. This where most of the 370,000 Haitians who are still living in flimsy shelters because the 2010 earthquake destroyed their homes. My flooding and high-winds destroyed many of those shelters as well their crops.
I hope you will help them. They have no resources to recover. Please remember no matter what comes in the next two days they will still be worse off.
I’m sorry to say that I have so much wind energy from the warm ocean water I am pushing the sea into your living rooms along the mid-Atlantic coast. The ocean is like a bowl full of water, blow hard enough on an angle and it will readily spill over.
My winds are topping 150 kph (90 miles per hour). They will lessen as come closer to land but by then so much water will be piled up against the coast there still will be extensive flooding all night long.
Record storm surge flooding has already occurred in regions along the New Jersey coast this morning. At high tide this evening much of the New York and New Jersey coast will experience historic levels of flooding.
To be absolutely clear: I am not “targeting” New York City or anywhere else. I am pushed and pulled by temperature and pressure differences. My winds are powered by warm water and moisture. And there is enough heat and moisture for my winds to make 12-foot high waves over a 3 million sq km area – one third the size of the US.
I don’t want to hurt anyone or cause any damage. I am simply nature’s pressure-relief valve, a way of re-distributing heat energy across the planet. But I’m not entirely natural. For hundreds of thousands of years the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) averaged 270-280 parts per million (ppm) which trapped enough of the sun’s heat to keep the planet comfortably warm.
Today the CO2 concentration is measured at 390 ppm. That’s nearly 40 per cent more CO2 in the air to capture more heat from the sun. About 90 percent of this extra heat has gone into the oceans.
All this extra CO2 came from your burning coal, oil, and gas and cutting down most of the world’s forests (trees take CO2 from the air to grow). So it’s plain to see that I not entirely natural.
I am truly a hybrid storm: part nature; part human.
Sandy here again. Early this morning I turned north-northwest and am about 500 km (300 mi) southeast of New York City. I am probably the largest storm on record, spanning 3,200 km (2000 mi). I wanted to stay out at sea but a massive band of cold air and low pressure over the Great Lakes region has pulled me in this direction. The coming collision between very cold and moist, warm air will make me more powerful and dangerous: a historic SuperStorm.
It’s impossible to say for certain if the record melt of sea ice in the Arctic is responsible for this. I do know that most of the Arctic sea ice melted this year. Ice reflects the sun’s energy but the dark ocean absorbs it. In order for the Arctic ocean to freeze again the heat has to be released into the air. Right now there are record amounts of heat energy getting into atmosphere up there.
This has been happening every fall for the last few years. It is no surprise that all that extra heat being released has been disrupting weather patterns. The jet stream – the west-to-east winds that are the boundary between the cold Arctic and the warm mid-latitudes – is slowing down, moving north and become more erratic.
Another factor that’s pushed me into the US northeast is a massive dome of high pressure located southwest of Greenland. Without this high-pressure block I probably would have resisted the pull of the low pressure system and stayed out to sea. That high pressure system has been locked in place for weeks – weather geeks call it a ‘blocking event’. It delivered a record span of warm temperatures and a record melt of the Greenland ice sheet.
I’ve used the word ‘record’ a lot. That’s because the climate has shifted into uncharted territory because more heat and moisture is being trapped in the atmosphere by an ever thicker blanket of CO2. This summer’s record heat and drought in the US is just one example of this “uncharted territory”.
Things are going to keep changing. Storms like me may get bigger. We may come more often, or we may just show up in places where we don’t usually go. There is no way to know.
All you can be sure of is that the climate of the past 20 and more centuries is gone. I am part of the new normal.
Hi, this is Sandy. People are calling me ‘Frankenstorm’, ‘Superstorm’ and even ‘Weatherbomb’.
I don’t mean to hurt anyone but the record moisture in the atmosphere and heat in the ocean has given me uncontrollable power. I probably will cause billions of dollars of damage in Washington, New York City Boston and other parts of the Northeast. And I will kill some people, I already have. At least 66 people died when I swept through Jamaica and Cuba a few days ago.
I am a force of nature but you have to understand this is not all my fault.
I was born a only a week Monday in the warm waters of the southwestern Caribbean sea as a cluster of thunderstorms — what you call a tropical depression, the first stage of a hurricane. One unusual thing about my birth was that it was so late in the hurricane-tropical storm season. But this is happening more and more often as the climate becomes warmer and large parts of the ocean stay warmer longer.
The air and sea are warmer because hundreds of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning coal, oil, and natural gas are now in the atmosphere. You should know that CO2 is the planet’s heating blanket that has kept the planet warm by trapping some of the sun’s heat.
Those hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 you humans have put in the atmosphere means the CO2 blanket is thicker and capturing more heat from the sun. The amount of extra heat-energy being trapped is like exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day 365 days per year.
Most of that extra heat has gone into the oceans which is why land temperatures around the world have only risen 0.8 degree C (1.0F) on average. The oceans are getting warmer and warm water expands – that’s why pots boil over. That’s one reason why sea levels are rising. The other reason is melting glaciers and ice sheets.
I was born in water 28C (80F) or better. To grow stronger I need warm water and lots of moisture in the air. There was plenty of both last week and by Monday evening my wind speeds were strong enough to be called a tropical storm. By Wednesday I was stronger still and named Hurricane Sandy, the 10th hurricane of 2012. There have been 19 tropical storms so far making this year tied for third busiest hurricane season in history.
Hurricanes live on warm water and moist air which is why I lost strength going over the mountains and hills of Jamaica and Cuba. But the huge area of near-record warm waters from Florida all the way up the east coast gave me the energy to stay at hurricane strength and grow in size. In fact I’ve become so big I may be one of the biggest ever recorded.
This should not be a surprise. More heat trapped by the extra CO2 means more fuel for storms and more moisture for heavier rains and more flooding than in the past. Higher sea levels means storm surges will be more damaging.
Hurricanes and typhoons are a way in which the Earth has re-distributed heat for millions of years. Think of us as giant pressure-relief valves. With more heat in the atmosphere it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve become bigger and more powerful.
I said I was a force of nature, many say an Act of God. But that’s no longer true is it?