Are Extremes Going to Be the ‘New Normal’?October 31st, 2012 at 8:45 pm by Don Paul under 4 Warn Weather
It is natural for scientists and nonscientists to ponder whether the virtually unprecedented hybrid superstorm is still another sign of the climate models’ predicted more frequent extremes? Short answer: Quite possibly. Sea surface temperature anomalies off the eastern U.S. are positive. Can it be PROVEN this is due to overall warming? No, but the trend of this happening in more years in recent decades is clear. The rarity of the evolution of this hurricane into a hybrid hurricane with a wind field greater than 1000 miles in diameter cannot be overstated. That broadening of the wind field was modeled despite increasing wind shear, and continental influences. By any and all measures, this was an extreme event.
I can’t really answer my own question conclusively. I know it and you know it. But the water levels in NY harbor have risen 15 inches in the past 150 years, and 4 to 6 inches of that–providing uncountable (to me, anyway) millions of tons of extra water– has occurred in just the last 15 years. At the very least, any hydrologist, storm surge specialist or storm surge modeler can safely postulate that extreme coastal storms will have greater effects than they would have had just 15 years ago. They will have greater destructive potential. Even less powerful storms will be able to produce more damage along the coasts and in harbors–including the financial and cultural capital of our nation, New York City.
As I’ve said before, I don’t know how much can be done to mitigate the effects of these new risks and, if global warming is the cause, the warming itself. But in the massive rebuilding of the infrastructure which is required, along with recreational and vacation communities, this new Probability will have to be factored into the costs, design and engineering of the new infrastructure. How we afford all that is a question for others to answer. That’s out of my field. But what I’ve said here is that even if we don’t see another storm like Sandy for a long time, other powerful storms will be able to cause more and more damage with the passage of time.