The World’s Biggest Metaphor just Came Ashore

October 31, 2012

Bad Astronomer:

A question I’ve seen a lot is: what was the role of global warming in all this? Christopher Mims wrote a short, measured analysis of this that matches my thinking almost exactly. Basically, it’s hard to know the precise role of global warming in the formation, movement, power, and damage caused by Sandy, but what we do know is that the Atlantic had warmer temperatures for longer than usual – conditions consistent with global warming – and that is a source of both energy and water for the hurricane. There is some thought that the huge arctic sea ice melt this year may have contributed to the abrupt westward turn of the hurricane into the coast. Correlation isn’t necessarily causation; the details are difficult to calculate and we may never know.

But we do know that something looking very much like this has been predicted by climate scientists. This may be an unusual event – after all, the nor’easter timing was important, and the spring tides from the full Moon contributed as well – but it’s hard to say just how unusual it will be in the future. Warmer waters lead to an extended hurricane season which can stretch into the time when nor’easters are more likely to occur. These circumstances loaded the dice. And as Mims so aptly phrased it, the reality of global warming means “climate change, by definition, is present in every single weather event on the planet.”

There has been some political opportunism with this storm as well. I am not a fan of such parasitism; latching on to an opportunity under the thinnest of pretense to trump a partisan view. However, let me be clear: we just had the world’s biggest metaphor come ashore in the United States. Years of outright climate change denial and faux skepticism will hopefully be shaken by this event. Sea ice melting happens far away; droughts, fires, shifting weather is unpredictable and difficult to grasp; statistical graphs are easily manipulated by special-interest groups and generally difficult to interpret anyway. But a hurricane a thousand miles across doing tens of billions of dollars of damage and causing untold chaos is more than a wake up call.

It should be a shot of adrenaline into the heart.

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5 Responses to “The World’s Biggest Metaphor just Came Ashore”

  1. ahaveland Says:

    … and hemlock to the Heartland Institute et al.

    “The Article That Predicted the New York Subway Storm Surge Problem”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/10/the-article-that-predicted-the-new-york-subway-storm-surge-problem/264199/

    This is the article in question, published in the New York Times on Sept 10:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/nyregion/new-york-faces-rising-seas-and-slow-city-action.html

    The comments are also interesting and largely knowledgeable. Good to see that a fair number of people “get it”.
    With hindsight, the few predictable RW trolls proudly showing off their broken brains now look very stupid indeed.

    Enough of the ideotology already – repair and prepare for the future.

  2. omnologos Says:

    Global multidecadal climate change once again reduced to a single weather event on a relatively tiny stretch of coast. It’s absurd.

    And if preparation is what we need then enough with idiotic mitigation efforts.


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