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How Does Global Warming Make Hurricanes Like Irene More Destructive?

By Joe Romm  

"How Does Global Warming Make Hurricanes Like Irene More Destructive?"

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PHOTO: Hurricane Irene

Climate science suggests that global warming will make hurricanes like Irene more destructive in three ways (all things being equal):

  1. Sea level rise makes storm surges more destructive.
  2. “Owing to higher SSTs [sea surface temperatures] from human activities, the increased water vapor in the atmosphere leads to 5 to 10% more rainfall and increases the risk of flooding,” as NCAR Senior Scientist Kevin Trenberth put it in an email to me today.
  3. “However, because water vapor and higher ocean temperatures help fuel the storm, it is likely to be more intense and bigger as well,” as Trenberth writes

On the third point, warming also extends the range of warm SSTs, which can help sustain the strength of a hurricane as it steers on a northerly track. As meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters has explained:

… this year sea surface temperatures 1 – 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. Waters of at least 26°C extend all the way to Southern New Jersey, which will make it easier for Irene to maintain its strength much farther to the north than a hurricane usually can. During the month of July, ocean temperature off the mid-Atlantic coast (35°N – 40°N, 75°W – 70°W) averaged 2.6°F (1.45°C) above average, the second highest July ocean temperatures since record keeping began over a century ago (the record was 3.8°F above average, set in 2010.) These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical, since much more water vapor can evaporate into the air from record-warm ocean surfaces.

Also, hurricanes tend to be self-limiting, in that they churn up deeper (usually cooler) water, that can stop them from gaining strength and also weaken them.  So since global warming also warms the deeper ocean, it further helps hurricanes stay stronger longer.

One says, “all things being equal,”  because, among other things, it is possible that global warming will increase wind shear, which can disrupt hurricanes.

The media prefer to ask the wrong question — as Politico did Friday with its piece, “Was Hurricane Irene caused by global warming?”  But they do have a good quote from perhaps the leading expert on the subject:

I think the evidence is fairly compelling that we’re seeing a climate change signal in the Atlantic, ” said Kerry Emanuel,  a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Citing other recent trends of extreme weather, including hailstorms and catastrophic tornadoes, “one begins to wonder,  if you add all those up,  maybe you are seeing a global warming effect.”

Still, he adds, “I would be reluctant myself to say anything about global warming and Irene” — but again, that I think is a function of asking the wrong question.  That’s a point Climate Central makes in its post on this subject, “Irene’s Potential for Destruction Made Worse by Global Warming, Sea Level Rise“:

At the moment, the immediate question for anyone in the path of the storm is — or should be —  “how can I keep myself and my loved ones safe?” But another question may be lingering in the background. It’s the same question that came up in April, when a series of killer tornadoes tore up the South in April, and in May, when floods ravaged the entire Mississippi River basin, and in July, when killer  heat waves seared the Midwest and Northeast, and in August, when Texas officially completed its worst one-year drought on record — a drought that isn’t over by a long shot.

The question: is this weather disaster caused by climate change?

Wrong question.

Here’s the right question: is climate change making this storm worse than it would have been otherwise?

Answer: Absolutely

For one thing, sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are higher now than they used to be, thanks to global warming, and ocean heat is what gives hurricanes their power. All other things being equal, a warmer ocean means a more powerful storm. It’s hard to say that all other things are exactly equal here, but it’s certainly plausible that Irene would have been a little weaker if precisely the same storm had come through, say, 50 years ago.

What we know for sure, however is that thanks largely to climate change, sea level is about 13 inches higher in the New York area than it was a century ago. The greatest damage from hurricanes comes not from high winds and torrential rains — although those do cause a lot of damage. It’s from the storm surge, the tsunami-like wall of water a hurricane pushes ahead of it to crash onto the land. It was Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge, not the wind or rain, that destroyed New Orleans back in 2005.

With an extra foot of sea level to start with, in other words, Irene’s storm surge is going to have a head start. And climate change is a big part of the reason why.

Note that teasing out a relationship between global warming and hurricane damage is tricky because “More than half the total hurricane damage in the U.S. (normalized for inflation and populations trends) was caused by just five events,” as Emanuel explained in an email to me a while back.  Storms that are Category 4 and 5 at landfall (or just before) are what destroy major cities like New Orleans and Galveston with devastating winds, rains, and storm surges.  One extra Cat 4 or 5 hitting Miami and you’ve obliterated the damage records.

Still, here’s a key finding of a 2009 study, “Tropical cyclone losses in the USA and the impact of climate change — A trend analysis based on data from a new approach to adjusting storm losses” (subs. req’d):

In the period 1971-2005, since the beginning of a trend towards increased intense cyclone activity, losses excluding socio-economic effects show an annual increase of 4% per annum. This increase must therefore be at least due to the impact of natural climate variability but, more likely than not, also due to anthropogenic forcings.

That isn’t definitive attribution — which the authors explicitly avoid — but it still is a statement of attribution.

UPDATE:  We are facing 10 times as much warming this century as in the last 50 years, so the 3 factors described above are going to have a greater and great impact over time.

Here’s more from Climate Central:

The relationship between climate change and hurricanes is one that scientists are still trying to understand. As I mentioned above, warm ocean waters provide the energy that keeps a hurricane going. That’s why the storms lose energy when they pass over land, and why they gain energy when they pass over warmer water (as Katrina did when it entered the Gulf of Mexico after crossing Florida).

Still the phrase “all other things being equal” is key. In a warming climate, all other things will not necessarily be equal. For one thing, wind patterns will probably change, and something called wind shear, which tends to snuff out hurricanes before they can fully form, may increase over the Atlantic as the climate changes. Moreover, some climate scientists argue that a key factor in hurricane formation is not simply the ocean temperature, but the differences in temperature from one ocean basin to another. One recent paper in Science concludes that the overall number of hurricanes in the Atlantic is likely to decrease over the coming century — but that the intensity of those that do happen is likely to increase.

But that says nothing — and nobody has a clue — about how many of those hurricanes will hit land, and if they do, whether it will be in densely populated areas or not (although more and more of the U.S. shoreline that lies in hurricane territory is filling up with people).

Nevertheless, one study has projected an overall 20 percent increase in hurricane-related damage based on population growth and sea-level rise alone, even if there were no change in hurricane frequency or strength.

Let’s also not forget that while storm surges pose the biggest danger, Irene will almost certainly bring torrential rains to a part of the country that has already been drenched over the past couple of weeks. With saturated ground and a deluge that could add up to 10 or even 20 inches of rain in just a day or so, rivers and creeks will likely overflow their banks, causing widespread flooding. And then there’s the wind, which will inevitably cut power to hundreds of thousands of people, at least (it can happen even when there isn’t a hurricane).

So this is another potential way that global warming can make hurricanes more destructive — by causing more deluges that can saturate the ground and worsen the flooding caused by a subsequent hurricane (whose deluge itself was likely worsened by global warming).

UPDATE:  CNN is warning Saturday afternoon of “catastrophic inland flooding” specifically because much of the ground is already saturated with water.  See also TP Green.

Finally, even without global warming, there are obviously good reasons for increased funding of early warning of hurricanes –  which the Republican House has in fact reversed — and for improving the ability of coastal communities to deal with hurricanes.  And, because of global warming, there are good reasons to plan for more extreme weather events, which, again, the GOP House bitterly opposes.   As long as the Tea Party rules, coastal communities are unlikely to see any significant funding increases for monitoring, planning, resilient, or adaptation.

Related Post:

‹ What Topics Would You Like Climate Progress to Cover?

Tar Sands Action Day Eight: ‘This Is Not The Change We Hoped For’ ›

53 Responses to How Does Global Warming Make Hurricanes Like Irene More Destructive?

  1. Badgersouth says:

    Kudos on another excellent article.

  2. catman306 says:

    Excellent posting! This one’s a keeper.

    People without the facts on global warming need to know what to expect will happen to them personally despite reassurances from the corporate media: bad weather of all sorts, almost everywhere, at various unpredictable times.

    They can expect a shortage of good, seasonable weather, free from drought, winds, excessive rainfall or temperature extremes.

  3. Richard Brenne says:

    I’d trade the entirity of all mainstream and other media for merely Joe Romm and all he quotes on this.

    Joe lists the smoking guns up front, with the biggest being sea surface temperatures.

    Just follow the record or near-record SSTs and you’ll see that global warming made Pakistan in 2010 and Queensland, Ohio and Mississippi River flooding, April tornado outbreaks and many more things possible, including I suspect Irene (Anyone have confirmation of this, all I’ve heard is that SSTs have averaged about 3 degrees above average, which must might mean record or near-record temperatures?).

    When these events happen especially rain on the ocean itself the SSTs drop and some (like Pielke) can say “What SSTs?” but they were there to trigger the event, then went into hiding because of the event that they triggered.

    This all from a recent lunch with Trenberth (talk about getting my money’s worth, his salad at NCAR is $3). And Joe, say hi to Kevin, Bryan, Jeff, Linda and Ben for me if you see them!

  4. Peter Mizla says:

    The link between tropical cyclones and global warming is nebulous.

    that such a system can be enhanced from higher levels of energy is a given.

    I will be east of a land falling tropical system in Connecticut-

    Thus far this summer- EVERY weather system that has offered precipitation has been ‘enhanced’.

    • Joe Romm says:

      I wouldn’t say nebulous. It is real — but hard to quantify at the level of an individual storm.

      • Jeffrey Davis says:

        There are many factors that help promote a tropical cyclone into a hugely destructive engine. One of them — SSTs — will definitely be pumped up by AGW, but that’s only one.

        Wind shear. Dry spots. Dust off the Sahara. The decline of a steep north/south temperature gradient. All of these impact the transformation of a slowly circulating storm into a Hurricane Wilma. And not positively either.

    • muoncounter says:

      You’re forgetting that a large part of the country has suffered an enhanced lack of precipitation at the same time. So whatever is operating on our weather systems must explain increasing extremes at both ends of the wetness spectrum. Global warming does that quite well; reject warming as a contributor to extreme weather and you had better supply some other mechanism. The ever-popular ‘we’ve had hurricanes before’ doesn’t fly.

  5. muoncounter says:

    Yet Virginia’s delightful Republican governor has already asked for and is receiving federal aid under a FEMA emergency declaration. One cannot begrudge this assistance in time of need. However, when Gov. McDonnell starts railing against the federal government and VA Rep Cantor starts playing his budget games, let’s immediately remind them of the meaning of the word ‘hypocrisy.’

  6. PeterM says:

    Precipitation from Irene will be enhanced, like every other event.

    Soil here in Connecticut is water logged from previous precipitation this month- also enhanced.

    I am east of the system- due to come inland here. High winds- will observe rain and winds.

  7. Edith Wiethorn says:

    http://mashable.com/2011/08/26/hurricane-irene-from-space/?utm_source=iphoneapp
    NASA’s beautiful, full-globe picture of Hurricane Irene from space … this link posted by technology thought leader Bill Gross on Google+

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/27/nyregion/bloomberg-responds-differently-to-this-storm.html?ref=us
    Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s background & crisis leadership is a role-model of 21st Century human intelligence responding to the reality of natural systems.

    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/27/306044/how-does-global-warming-make-hurricanes-like-irene-more-destructive/
    Joe Romm’s timely post at Climate Progress TOPS answers to my next question to Google Search : how much heat increase in Atlantic waters is contributing to Hurricane Irene? Atlantic waters in the storm path are now 1-3 degrees “warmer than average.”

    This is an informative post that would be improved by an edit that shifts all parenthetical caveats into a footnote position. If you recall, parenthetical caveats were a target of Steven Colbert’s roast of science-deniers & science-messagers in the video posted on TPCP a few weeks ago.

    Looking ahead on the climate change action trajectory …

    How would President Obama explain his decision to stop the Tar Sands XL Pipeline if his leadership response were equal to Michael Bloomberg’s as a 21st Century role-model of human intelligence responding to the reality of natural systems?

  8. Joan Savage says:

    The public’s language to describe a hurricane seems limited to the Saffir-Simpson scale, plus colorful adjectives and anecdotes.
    The Saffir-Simpson scale is for wind speed only, and that can lead to gibberish about how “bad” is a hurricane. We need terms to communicate the scale of water moved, the widths of the swaths of the tropical storm outer ring and the hurricane itself. The storm surge + tide outcomes could also benefit from a scale.
    I keep thinking that if we had an equivalent of sports terms for climate and weather, the discussion would get more down to earth. RBIs and life time batting averages, or yards carrying the ball, 4 under par, etcetera, then more people get it.

    • Edith Wiethorn says:

      Good brainstorming idea – please download freely while the topic is hot – the muse never revisits twice in the same way!

      • Joan Savage says:

        Good point about seizing the moment.
        The ABC storm forecast brought out several components that make it easier to talk comparisons between a particular hurricane and Joe Romm’s succinct climate change list.
        Storm surge is in a way the easy one, already expressed in feet of water and distance inland, although that could get more expressive, and successive, terms.
        An interesting category ABC mentioned is the hours of continuous high winds. Because Irene is so huge and the eye is moving so slowly, some areas can expect 11-12 continuous hours of storm winds. That may be a metric that correlates somewhat to areal extent of warm ocean that sustains the storm – an idea to test, anyway.
        ABC also did a good job of explaining that the east or leading side of the system has the highest winds and the west/northwest side gets the heavy precipitation.
        Inches of rain per hour and cumulative precipitation over the period of the storm deserve successive categories.
        I tend to calibrate to local consequences like soil saturation or flooding, which don’t give a universally consistent interpretation, so that one needs work.

  9. Joan Savage says:

    Ok. I left a post that disappeared.
    It may be involved with another odd thing is happening with the revised word press format.

    If I don’t catch it, the previous commentator’s name and email pops up for my use! I’m not Peter Misla..

  10. PeterM says:

    Heavy torrential rains have begun in central eastern CT- 40 miles inland from LI Sound.

    No wind as of yet. As I am going to be east of this system- I should expect to see sustained winds at tropical storm strength- to 73mph- to Hurricane- minimal (74mph)

    I should see my power go out my mid to later this evening. As I alluded to earlier- the ground is saturated from earlier rain this month.

    So it has begun- will give updates as long as the power remains.

  11. Doug Bostrom says:

    That was a really useful explanation. Thank you!

  12. Peter Mizla says:

    Thanks JR for the clarification. Torrential rains have begun here in eastern CT- 17 mi east of Hartford.

    The storm will track inland east of here, near New Haven on the coast- so I am on the east side- which means strong winds.

    I am 40 miles inland from Block Island Sound-
    Tropical storm winds here a given- up to 73mph. Hurricane force- 74mph UP possible.

    Ground is already saturated. Should see substantial damage from trees (uprooted, limbs broken) I will lose power-

    will update as long as the juice remains.

  13. Donna says:

    Brief Conclusion
    As can be seen by the timelines above, the New Jersey to New England region is long overdue for a hit by a strong hurricane. It is very rare that more than 15 years pass without such an occurrence, and, on average, the period of return should be on the order of 5-10 years.

    SOURCES:
    Early American Hurricanes: 1492-1870 David M. Ludlum, American Meteorological Society, 1963

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    As all our eyes watched the eastern seaboard …
    Nanmadol made “Super Typhoon” status , she’s weakened, which is good, .. because it’s now going to cross Taiwan

    http://www.usno.navy.mil/NOOC/nmfc-ph/RSS/jtwc/warnings/wp1411.gif

  15. Badgersouth says:

    Patrick Michaels desrves the full Romm treatment for:

    “Get Real: Hurricane Irene Should Be Renamed “Hurricane Hype’” Climate of Fear Blog, Forbes, Aug 26, 2011

    To access this inane article, click here.

    How many pounds of crow do you suppose that Michaels eats during the course of a year?

    http://blogs.forbes.com/patrickmichaels/

  16. Aaron Lewis says:

    It is time for Masters and others to just tell it like it is:
    We have one weather system, that is connected together, and it runs on heat. Put more heat in, and we get larger and more energetic storms. It is different weather than we would have without that additional heat.

    Without the heat from AGW, Irene would be a very different storm. Without the heat from AGW, all of our weather over the last 40 years would have been different.

    The heat from AGW has shut down the cold dry storms that our parents knew (such as the blizzards of 1888 & 1948) and made storms like Irene possible.

  17. Excellent post!

    And for those of you weathering Irene in DC, we’re in the middle of a huge Defuse the Carbon Bomb dance party at St. Stephen’s church right now. So fired up to see the Times printing big pictures of the tarsands protests today–and the Journal editorializing against us. It’s clearly struck a nerve

    • Richard Brenne says:

      Bill, in addition to immense gratitude for your great work (and please get arrested for me), I’m concerned about the mountain creek near your home flooding again – please tell me it won’t take out the bridge that was just re-built!

    • catman306 says:

      Maybe the Washington Times would print some pictures of the ecological destruction at the site of the Tar Sands operations.

      Bill, thanks, you are doing some impossible work and and it’s going well.

    • Ed Hummel says:

      Bill,
      Just want to add my gratitude for what you’ve done and continue to do.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    If you have the Washington Times agin ya, you can’t be doing much wrong. Where is the Revered Sun and Moon these days?

  19. Robert In New Orleans says:

    While it is true that warmer sea temperatures and more atmospheric water vapor will enhance hurricane development and growth, a warmer atmoshere also increases wind shear (atmospheric turbulence) and promotes an increase in the amount of very dry dusty air from the Sahara Desert (SAL Layer), both which will supress tropical cyclogenesis.

    • Joe Romm says:

      While I think the jury is out on the second half of your proposition, the point is that once a hurricane forms, global warming is likely to make it more destructive for a number of reasons.

  20. Eve says:

    Wind shear or no wind shear, I think the main point is that anthropogenic global warming is clearly affecting the climate and
    the ecosystem. Some of the effects we can already see. Its not clear exactly what will
    happen in the future if we continue on the
    same path. But do we really want to find out?

  21. Leif says:

    A few months go Joe did a post about the atmosphere heat imbalance of the atmosphere and equating it to Hiroshima size atom bombs. It turns out that daily the earth absorbs the extra heat energy equivalent to one million Hiroshima Bombs. Divide that 1,000,000 into the total area of the earth and you come out with one Hiroshima Bomb’s worth of energy for every 16 mile diameter circle on earth. Every day! Each hour Irene would move ~12 miles at one point of its travels. That means the extra energy available for Irene is in the neighborhood one a least one Hiroshima bomb every hour and twenty minutes. Actually more than that because you have the energy accumulation from prior days and other discrepancies but hay, I am just trying show that there is a LOT of extra energy floating out there to power up these heat engines. Quibble if you must but you can only go higher IMO.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Thank-you Richard for your welcome back. It just took a while to raise the bail money. Still, I hear the judge is eminently ‘reasonable’, so it should be but a brief hiatus, unrepeated.

    • Richard Brenne says:

      Mulga, we look forward to your most delightfully eloquent and insightful comrants anywhere!

  23. Peter Mizla says:

    5:15am

    Aug 28th

    heavy rains- wind gusts thus far to 40mph

    power will likely go out in the next few hours.

  24. Ecoratorio says:

    Very informative and succinct. Thank you!

  25. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Excellent article on Global Warming which should be an eye opener to the skeptics of Global warming and climate change.

    Dr.A.jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  26. catman306 says:

    Harold Brown, writing for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation (partially Koch funded) has decided that NOAA is wasting its effort on unreliable hurricane prediction.

    http://onlineathens.com/stories/082811/opi_877809848.shtml

  27. Doug Bostrom says:

    Aaron Lewis says:

    “We have one weather system, that is connected together, and it runs on heat. Put more heat in, and we get larger and more energetic storms. It is different weather than we would have without that additional heat.

    Well said. That’s pretty much the whole story in a neat nutshell, and not so hard for anybody to understand.

  28. Debra Jacobson says:

    Excellent post. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene creates a “teachable moment” to underscore that the costs of global climate are real and very substantial. This point needs great emphasis and documentation to help rebut the arguments of those who argue that it is too expensive to address climate change.
    It is ironic that there is so much focus on the national deficit in our country without the acknowledgement that the failure to deal with the climate change issue creates an incredible burden on our children and grandchildren.
    For those interested in another good piece on this issue – see http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/08/hurricane-irene-and-global-warming-a-glimpse-of-the-future.html

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Debra #29, ‘teachable moments’ do not compute with the Dunning-Kruger rabble. Nothing will ever make the vast majority of them see the light. To do so would be to admit error, which their tiny minds linked to hypertrophied egos will not countenance. To admit that they were wrong and the evil socialist ‘water-melons’ were correct would, literally, ‘blow their minds’ (with enough explosive power to, possibly, dislodge their ear-wax.

  30. One subject for further writing on this topic: Heat Engine Theory. Simply stated, the theory suggests that added heat increases the amount of energy available to storms. According to this particular theory, it doesn’t necessarily mean that storms, in general, will be more numerous, but that the most intense storms will be even more intense.

  31. Doug Bostrom says:

    Maybe it’s worth doing a follow-up on this post?

    Officials began fanning across Vermont Monday morning to assess damage from treacherous flooding. More than 250 roads were closed, several of the state’s iconic covered bridges had washed away and some two dozen emergency shelters were “chock full” of people displaced from flooded homes, Gov. Peter Shumlin said.

    “Several of the state’s iconic bridges.” They’re iconic because they’ve been there a long time. Vermont’s had an exceptionally wet year, capped off now by additional water that has eliminated some long-standing features.

    Flooding also forced the state’s emergency operations center to relocate overnight from Waterbury to Burlington, where it is operating out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s temporary offices.

    More: Inland Floods in Northeast May Be Irene’s Biggest Impact

    Good coverage also at the Burlington Free Press, where there are some pretty stunning videos of tiny brooks converted into raging torrents.

  32. Doug Bostrom says:

    Just a little followup on Vermont.

    NOAA has a useful writeup of the 1927 flood here:

    The Flood of 1927.

    There we can see how over a course of several days Vermont was “liquified,” with damage particularly in the Winooski Valley.

    Wunderground has some early information from NWS on rainfall totals in VT here. There are some reports w/comparable amounts to the 1927 event but fortunately most are a bit lower, perhaps about 2/3 of the 1927 affair. As usual what’s really impressive is how intense the Irene rainfall was; the 1927 precipitation took place over the course of days, Irene’s over a few hours.

    We also learn from all of this that Big Government is actually helpful:

    As a result of the statewide devastation caused by the flood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built 3 flood retention reservoirs and accompanying dams in the Winooski River basin at East Orange, Wrightsville and Waterbury to try to mitigate the effects of further flooding. In 1949 the Union Village Reservoir and dam on the Ompompanoosuc River was completed. By the early 1960s, four other reservoirs/dams were completed in the Connecticut River basin. These were built on the Ottaquechee River at North Hartland, the Black River at North Springfield, and the West River at Ball Mountain (Jamaica) and Townshend.

    Flooding continues to occur throughout the state, but no event has approached the Flood of 1927 for areal extent. This is partially due to the mitigation efforts of the Corps of Engineers, but also due to the fact that the 1927 event was a rarity, with a return period of hundreds of years.

    However, Big Government– just like lunch– is not free of charge.

  33. Doug Bostrom says:

    Sorry, I don’t seem to be able to leave this alone. Maybe because this is the kind of creeping expansionism we’ve been told to expect?

    “For rivers like central New Jersey’s Millstone, it’s the fourth — and most severe — major flood since Hurricane Floyd a dozen years ago.

    State climatologist David Robinson said the only worse flooding statewide was the Great Flood on 1903.

    “We’re talking a tragic mass of flooding,” he said.

    Robinson said the state seems to be in a pattern of frequent heavy rains. It’s not all explained by impervious surfaces brought in by sprawl. “It’s not as if in 1999, New Jersey suddenly developed,” he said.”

    Like something’s different, eh?

    And a close call in Vermont:

    “Green Mountain Power considered deliberately flooding Vermont’s capital Montpelier to save the earthen Marshfield Dam, about 20 miles up the Winooski River to the northeast.

    But water levels stabilized Monday morning and they decided there was no need to take that drastic step. However, engineers were continuing to monitor the situation. “

    Finally, take a look at this image

    http://msnbcmedia1.msn.com/j/MSNBC/Components/Slideshows/_production/ss-110825-hurricane-irene/ss-110829-hurricane-irene-2.grid-7×2.jpg

    and ask yourself how many times we’ll “fix” areas of coastal development before we conclude we’ve lost?

  34. Alex Fane says:

    Is anyone else tracking Hurricane Irene’s path toward Greenland? Might 10″ of sudden warm rain cause a major glacier melt event? It seems the combination of warm ocean and missing jet stream made the northward march of Irene possible. I’ve seen comments by Aaron Lewis that melt is not linear, but much and various feedback excelerates beyond most present models. Irene may not do it this time, but might another similar storm set off quite a chain of consequences?

    • Joan Savage says:

      Eastern Canada or northward lacked a body of 80F-plus warm water that could feed moisture to the storm. The tropical water was dumped on the US East Coast, and didn’t get a ride all the way to Greenland.

    • Joan Savage says:

      Alex Fane,
      You might get a chance for some data about hurricanes closer to Greenland.
      Watch the NHC updates of the low pressure system in the North Atlantic with 50% chance of becoming a “tropical cyclone,” even though it is forming east of Delaware. It is projected to move northeast, which would bypass Canadian land mass.

      http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/gtwo_atl.shtml

  35. Jody says:

    A question to the casual climate denier including our elected “leaders”: How many scientific papers on the subject that have been peer reviewed and published in scientific journals have you looked at and actually understand?