Welcome To The New Normal: FrankenWeather

Close-up of Hurricane Sandy off cost of VA and MD yesterday, courtesy of NOAA


The pictures and videos coming out of New York and New Jersey are a vivid reminder that Mother Nature always bats last; human technology, civilization, and hubris crumbles  in the face of her power. Reports are that 17 people are dead, and 7 million are without power on the U.S East Coast.



Arianna Huffington wrote: “Two presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, and now they are seeing the climate speak to them.”


Cartoon: David Fitzsimmons


Mindy Lubber, President of Ceres, wrote in response to the question “What is climate silence costing us?”:

Let’s hope the forecasts are wrong and the hurricane loses its punch, but after a summer of record drought, temperatures and destructive wildfires, Hurricane Sandy should be treated less like an anomaly and more like the new normal.

Whether or not the presidential candidates want to talk about it, climate change is driving severe weather to new extremes—with costly results. Last year, U.S. property/casualty insurers paid out more than $32 billion in losses after facing a string of pronounced droughts, wildfires, flooding and other climate-influenced weather events.

These losses hurt taxpayers too. As insurers adapt to the changing climate, they are cutting off coverage in riskier areas, leaving state governments, the federal government and the American public to pick up the slack. Since 1990, total government exposure to losses in hurricane-ravaged states has grown more than 15-fold, up to $885 billion in 2011.

Many insurers have pulled out of Florida and the Gulf Coast, but they can’t entirely escape extreme weather. Now big storms and other extreme weather are hitting northern New England, the Midwest and other supposedly safer regions. For example, some of the biggest damages caused by Hurricane Irene last year were in Vermont and New Hampshire – states accustomed to snow, not hurricanes.

Of course hurricanes are only part of the problem. In other parts of the country, the biggest losses have come from devastating drought and wildfires. This summer’s drought resulted in about $5 billion of losses for private insurers, but – through the federal crop insurance program – the government and American taxpayers will pay far more.

This shift of exposure from private insurers to governments and taxpayers is a troubling trend, and it’s all the more reason why the insurance industry, policymakers and the winner of the presidential race need to come together in tackling the enormous threat from escalating extreme weather and climate-driven risks.

For more discussion on what the cost of climate silence, and inaction is, go to National Journal’s Energy Experts page. Except for the right-wing ideologue from the George C. Marshall Institute, all of the columns on that page are worth a read.

If you want more food for thought, or ideas for action, here’s Paul Gilding discussing The Great Disruption that is coming upon us. You can also go to my Action not Apathy page for inspiration.


Meteorologist At A Loss For Expletives To Describe What Hurricane Sandy Could Do

“If you think mitigated climate change is expensive, try unmitigated climate change.”

Dr. Richard Gammon

80 feet of boardwalk floating free at Atlantic and New Hampshire Ave. Source: Twitter

The “Frankenstorm” combination of Hurricane Sandy, super-storm conditions, and climate change is starting to pummel the North American East Coast as I write this. The Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross said: “This is a beyond-strange situation. It’s unprecedented and bizarre.”  It’s almost as if the voices of climate scientists who have been raising the alarm about increasingly severe and chaotic weather for decades has been drowned out; almost like the special interests who have the most to lose in the switch to clean energy, with deep pockets and unrestricted political access, have been spending hundreds of millions to dollars to ensure that the message of climate science does not get out. Peter Sinclair over at ClimateCrocks.com refers to Hurricane Sandy as a “teachable moment” and reminds us that we have to get used to them. These are the key takeaways he suggests from this teachable moment:

Climate Change is changing the weather. The last several years have been marked by a series of extreme weather events that fit the characteristics of a changing climate

A warmer atmosphere provides more energy for storms

A warmer atmosphere holds more water, and that can make storms more destructive

Storm surges are now riding on top of elevated sea levels, amplifying flooding along coastal areas

Right now, Sea surface temps along the Northeast US coast are about 5 F above average, which is likely to keep the  storm powered up and load extra moisture, fueling heavy rains. September had the second highest global sea surface temps on record

In the Northeast US, sea levels are rising up to 4 x faster than the global average, making this area more vulnerable now, and in the future

Multiple high tides may help drive flooding fueled by a triple climate-whammy: storm surge from a storm kept alive due to elevated SSTs, sea level rise driven by global warming, and extra heavy rains due to the additional available moisture

Meanwhile, north of the border, Canada is also bracing for the impacts of the Frankenstorm. But last week another natural disaster closed the TransCanada Hwy in northern Ontario:

Source: OPP

October 26, 2012: Flooding Forces Wawa To Declare State Of Emergency:

It was such a heavy downpour that if you were driving down the street you wouldn’t see in front of your vehicle,” [Wawa Mayor] Linda Nowicki said. “It was raining that heavily.”

…At this stage, with the two bridges that failed, we’re looking at a $4 to $5 million bill to replace those. And when you add the fact that the other roads that were supposed to be used to get into town are washed out, we will need money to help fix those.”

The damage to some roads connecting Wawa and surrounding areas is extensive.

“One road, I’m told, there’s a 30 foot crater in it. That’s 30 feet deep,” she said. 

Source: OPP


Our thoughts should be with those people who are going to suffer the worst effects of Hurricane Sandy in the next few days, but let’s also spare some thought for future generations who are going to be suffering more frequent, and worse, weather calamities and food shortages because of the “frankenclimate” our generation’s inaction on this issue will create.

Source: Doug Grandt

More links:

Reuters.com: Tracking Storm Sandy Live

Teachable Moments: Get Used To ‘Em

Kevin Trenberth: Hurricane Sandy Mixes Super-Storm Conditions With Climate Change