Thursday, November 22, 2012

Give Thanks for Quiet Weather

Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday in November so that the date changes each year.  This year it is on the 22nd which is the earliest that it occurs.  For Christmas shoppers it means you have more time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to get those gifts.  Next year, 2013, Thanksgiving Day will fall on the 28th which is the latest date that it occurs.

The weather can be bitter or balmy or anything in between.  Research by Climate Central shows that in Columbia, SC, the warmest Thanksgiving Day was in 1900 with 81 degrees F.  The coldest temperature recorded has been 21 degrees F in 1970.  It is interesting that 1 inch of snow fell in 1912.  However, there has not been a measurable snowfall on Christmas Day in Columbia.

Click on the image for a larger view.  Image credit: Climate Central.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sandy: A Story of Survival

There have been a number of stories in the media of surviving Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy.  Tragically more than 200 people have lost their lives from the Caribbean to the Northeast.  Sandy was a hurricane as it moved through the Caribbean toward Cuba.  A number of lives were lost in Haiti due to the excessive rains.  The country was still trying to recover from the devastating earthquake in January, 2010.  Sandy has been a setback for the nation.

We have seen the images and heard the stories of Sandy from those affected in the Northeast.  There have been two stories that have jumped out at me in the past week.  The first was published here in the New York Times.  Stories like this remind me of the same stories told by hurricane survivors along the Southeast & Gulf coasts.  Why would anyone stay after seeing the devastation brought by Sandy?

Oblique aerial photographs of Mantoloking, NJ. View looking west along the New Jersey shore. Storm waves and surge cut across the barrier island at Mantoloking, NJ, eroding a wide beach, destroying houses and roads, and depositing sand onto the island and into the back-bay. Construction crews with heavy machinery are seen clearing sand from roads and pushing sand seaward to build a wider beach and protective berm just days after the storm. The yellow arrow in each image points to the same feature.  Image Credit: USGS.

Then there is this story of survival by Steve Hartmann of CBS.  His is a story of a son who decided to stay to protect the house.  I encourage everyone to see this.  It is one of the best examples of why you should never stay to protect property.  Fortunately no one was killed in this example.

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There are many lessons to be learned from Sandy.  CBS This Morning briefly mentioned a few thoughts as they interviewed a reporter from Time magazine.

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It will take time to recover from Sandy.  However, this is the time to think about the next storm.  Many will get money from FEMA or some other source to rebuild.  But why build in a vulnerable spot when the next storm will simply inflict the same result?

Andy Revkin of Dot Earth wrote an article explaining how so much was at risk in Sandy.  Simply rebuilding as before is a waste of money in my view.  Keep in mind that much of this is funded by taxpayers.  I do not mind helping victims with their loss, but to simply put the money back in harm’s way is a waste.

Local and state governments are reluctant to restrict rebuilding in vulnerable areas, because of the loss of revenue.  To declare land off limit to rebuilding is to reduce the revenue base.  Yet the cost to taxpayers is increasing.  Many of the same issues are happening in South Carolina and the result will likely be the same as in Sandy.

Furthermore, we need to rethink the infrastructure.  Areas need to be fortified and the electrical grid upgraded to weather future storms.  Of course the entire national grid needs to be upgraded to the 21st century.  The frequency and severity of storms is increasing.  If we are to adapt to a changing climate, then this must be done.

Last night Nova aired a special program on PBS called Inside the Megastorm.  It is a look at the forecasts for Sandy, surviving the storm, and a look at the future.  If you missed the program, here it is:

Watch Inside the Megastorm on PBS. See more from NOVA.

The forecast for Sandy was excellent.  I first wrote about the potential eight days before landfall here.  There was plenty of warning that the storm was coming and that it would be bad.  Yet, there could have been better communication and preparation for the storm.

Still Sandy was an unusual hurricane.  I will address this in a latter post.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Public Supports Action

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University released their survey of the public (as of September 2012) in a bi-annual report.  A staggering 92% of Americans say the President and Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a priority.  The full report can be seen here.

The cover for the new report.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rise Of Extreme Weather

Extreme weather has always been with us, but the trend over the past few decades has been for it to increase in number.  The Climate Extremes Index (CEI) was developed by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and goes back to 1910.  It looks at the number of events that occur.  The graph below compares the period of January through October so that data from this year can be included.

The CEI for the period of January - October 1910 - 2012.  Image Credit: NOAA/NCDC.

The CEI with the experimental tropical cyclone indicator included.  Image Credit: NOAA/NCDC.

A new report recently released (before Hurricane Sandy) by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company, re-enforces this observation.  The report is about the increase in extreme weather over North America.  The report states:

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Growing Season Ends For 2012

Frosts and freezes were common across the midlands of South Carolina this morning.  A few areas saw temperatures drop to freezing on the first of November, but most of those readings were in low-lying protected areas.  However, much of the area saw temperatures to freezing this morning.  A few areas like the city of Columbia still have not reached freezing, but most of the area saw enough frost to end the growing season for the Midlands.

Low temperatures for the first-order stations in South Carolina for Friday, November 9.  Image Credit: WLTX-TV.