Stitched together from some spooky combination of the natural and the unnatural.” [Bill McKibben]
McKibben explains “Our relationship to the world around us is shifting as fast as that world is shifting. ‘Frankenstorm’ is the right name for Sandy, and indeed for many other storms and droughts and heat waves now.”
I admit I am a believer that our human existence has hastened the creation of our most recent weather patterns and that global warming contributes to enhanced patterns and extremes.
As the Frankenstorm bears down on the NE coast we must wonder how climate change fits into the equation that creates such an unprecedented occurrence. As Adam Frank recently published, One thing that does seem clear is that warmer oceans (a la global warming) mean more evaporation, and that likely leads to storms with more and more dangerous rainfall of the kind we saw with Hurricane Irene last year. In addition, a paper published just last month, used records of storm surges going back to 1923 as a measure of hurricane activity.
A strong correlation between warm years and strong hurricanes was seen. Thus if you warm the planet, you can expect more dangerous storms. The science of climate attribution is very exciting and full of cool, new ideas. It has already provided us with first steps towards more precision in understanding how climate change is changing climate now, already. For hurricanes, however, sticking to the science means it is still hard to point to an individual storm and say, yes! Climate change! A more reasoned approach is to take the full weight of our understanding about the Earth and its systems and go beyond asking if any particular event is due to global warming or natural variability. As Kevin Ternbeth of NCAR says “Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”(Adam Frank 2012)
“We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting,” ~NOAA
The concern? That these three weather phenomena — an Atlantic Ocean heated 5 degrees above average by human caused global warming, a powerful hurricane fueled by that same warming, and a winter storm intensified by growing extremes in temperature differences could all combine into a storm worse than the so-called ‘Perfect Storm’ that harried the Northeast and ravaged shipping lanes back in 1991.
As Brad Johnson over at ClimateSilence.org noted: “Sandy is yet another reminder that the candidates should stop competing over who can poison the weather faster with increased oil, gas and coal production.” Of course, Brad did fail to mention that under President Obama, alternative energy production has doubled, Obama set CAFE standards to increase to 55 mpg, and that he has been the strongest Presidential advocate yet for policies that reduce the impact of climate change. All that said, publicly competing over who would increase fossil fuel production the most certainly did not send the right message. (Robert Scribbler 2012)
I hope and pray that the damage and suffering is as minimal as possible but that in Frankenstorms wake we can record and continue to build models that will allow us to determine that our existence on Mother Earth needs to be one of sustainability and not earth destroying practices.
Peace and love
Adam Frank National Public Radio,2012 Frankenstorm: Has Climate Change Created A Monster?