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As Brutal Record Hurricane Season Ends, ABC Says It’s The New Normal Since Climate Change Is ‘Right Here, Right Now’

By Joe Romm on December 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm

"As Brutal Record Hurricane Season Ends, ABC Says It’s The New Normal Since Climate Change Is ‘Right Here, Right Now’"

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Sandy floods Ground Zero construction site. AP Photo.

The 2012 hurricane season, which ended Saturday, is one for the record books. As Climate Central explains:

For the third straight season there were 19 named storms in the Atlantic, which is the third-highest level of storm activity observed since 1851….

Since 1851, only two hurricane seasons — 2005 and 1933 — have been busier than 2010, 2011, and 2012.

And then there was Sandy, the storm of the decade (so far), which will likely turn out to be the second most costly superstorm to hit the United States, after Katrina. Sandy proved that you don’t have to be a major hurricane (Category Three or greater) to cause unimaginably widespread devastation.

We will have to get used to this kind of frankenstorm — see “How Does Climate Change Make Superstorms Like Sandy More Destructive?” ABC News ran an excellent story on this, featuring Climate Central’s Heidi Cullen:

And for the extreme weather junkies out there, meteorologist and former hurricane Hunter Dr. Jeff Masters has the stunning numbers:

Hurricane Sandy was truly astounding in its size and power. At its peak size, twenty hours before landfall, Sandy had tropical storm-force winds that covered an area nearly one-fifth the area of the contiguous United States. Since detailed records of hurricane size began in 1988, only one tropical storm (Olga of 2001) has had a larger area of tropical storm-force winds, and no hurricanes has. Sandy’s area of ocean with twelve-foot seas peaked at 1.4 million square miles–nearly one-half the area of the contiguous United States, or 1% of Earth’s total ocean area.

Most incredibly, ten hours before landfall (9:30 am EDT October 30), the total energy of Sandy’s winds of tropical storm-force and higher peaked at 329 terajoules–the highest value for any Atlantic hurricane since at least 1969. This is 2.7 times higher than Katrina’s peak energy, and is equivalent to five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. At landfall, Sandy’s tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been wider; the previous record holder was Hurricane Igor of 2010, which was 863 miles in diameter. Sandy’s huge size prompted high wind warnings to be posted from Chicago to Eastern Maine, and from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Florida’s Lake Okeechobee–an area home to 120 million people. Sandy’s winds simultaneously caused damage to buildings on the shores of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore, and toppled power lines in Nova Scotia, Canada–locations 1200 miles apart!

Imagine what kind of superstorms we will see when it is 10°F warmer and sea levels are 6+ feet higher. Or, better yet, imagine we are somehow smart enough to deploy low carbon technology fast enough to avert that grim future.

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15 Responses to As Brutal Record Hurricane Season Ends, ABC Says It’s The New Normal Since Climate Change Is ‘Right Here, Right Now’

  1. prokaryotes says:

    Super Typhoon Bopha

    ISS034-E-005437 (2 Dec. 2012) — One of the Expedition 34 crew members aboard the International Space Station captured this still image of Super Typhoon Bopha on Dec. 2, 2012. The storm was bearing down on the Philippines with winds of 135 miles per hour. Meteorologists are predicting that the storm will make landfall on Mindanao in the early morning of Dec. 4 local time, as either a category 4 or 5.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa2explore/8241228681/

  2. Mark E says:

    Whenever we rank “superstorms”, I suggest we also add a plug for the easily-overlooked, slow-moving, nation-busting disaster known as “Drought”

    See <A href="http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=2296&quot;
    Droughts, not Hurricanes, are the Greater Danger

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      There may be a hierarchy of disasters, but we need to be cognisant of the synergies. Record deluges after mega-fires leads to landslides and ash pollution of waterways. Melting mountain ice causes montane landslides and downstream water shortages. And, of course, there will be lots of unpleasant surprises, and not many serendipitous ones. It’s the extremity of events that will destroy us. We are a civilization based on climate stability. The rising chorus of Rightwing gibberish demanding ‘adaptation’ is more idiocy and humbug. Just watch Holland, or Bangladesh, adapt to rising sea-levels over the next few decades.

  3. Zimzone says:

    ‘Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and I probably don’t believe that it’s man made. I believe that, you know, that weather and certain elements are controlled maybe by different things.’ -AZ Gov. Jan Brewer

    This is what we’re up against, folks. Denial… proudly financed by big oil and gas.

  4. prokaryotes says:

    Megastorms Could Drown Massive Portions of California
    Huge flows of vapor in the atmosphere, dubbed “atmospheric rivers,” have unleashed massive floods every 200 years, and climate change could bring more of them
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=megastorms-could-down-massive-portions-of-california

    • Mark E says:

      That article references a disaster-planning risk assessment by USGS and other agencies, which itself is quite a read. There is a link on this sciencedaily article
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110117142512.htm

      • Mark E says:

        I never did hear if CA’s various nuke facilities could experience a Fukushima type flooding event in this scenario. Does anyone know?

        • Solar Jim says:

          No one knows an exact future of the planet. However, climate science indicates that at current levels of carbonic acid gas (approaching 400 ppm and 500 ppm total long-term equivalent forcing from all long-lived “greenhouse” gases) civilization will be dismantled year by year.

          Science has known this for decades, yet “our masters” have seen to it that our lack of response is quite psychopathic.

          • John McCormick says:

            Solar, I have believed this for about ten years. Many of us have.

            We wail and flail at the criminals who protect BAU because their fortunes depend upon that. Old and middle aged white men who have never invested anything of themselves that did not lead to personal wealth will die off long before my children and extended family of nieces and nephews. They’ll hate the future we allowed to happen and,if we are still around, we can tell them it was the old white guy bastards but that won’t cut it.

            If there really are 30 million Americans who identify with the ‘environmental movement’ then we have met the real enemy. Fear of spreading fear among us has been the ball and chain we drag around.

            Maybe the big green iced our future by leading us down a dark ally of caution and careful messaging.

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    Must see video on what sea level rise and storms are doing to Florida coast line… the climate converted Mayor of Miami now is effectively part of the group of 3!

    Climate change factor in beach erosion?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jYODFGYcAwM

    “We have to get the climate experts in … and hope it doesn’t affect our tourism.”

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    Climate Chaos shared a link on FB
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Climate-Chaos/187700434593711

    Global warming is ‘causing more hurricanes’
    http://www.independent.co.uk
    Scientists have found support for the controversial idea that global warming is causing more frequent and destructive hurricanes, a subject that has been hotly debated during the past decade.

  7. squidboy6 says:

    It’s refreshing to see these things put into perspective by using absolutes such as energy. That Sandy was more destructive to Katrina was obvious to all but the most jaded observer so now that the energy is extrapolated to be 2.7 times greater it makes it easier for even the poorly educated to understand the dilemma that we’re facing.