The planet is boiling. The Wonk Room recently reported on the troubling new studies that show the spate of stronger storms — including Katrina — is tied to global warming caused by our unrestrained burning of fossil fuels. Today, Greenpeace notes that Ike is part of this trend of larger, more destructive storms fueled by hot oceans. As the Washington Post reports, “Hundreds of thousands of people began fleeing coastal areas in Texas today under mandatory evacuation orders as Hurricane Ike rampaged across the Gulf of Mexico, bringing 100 mph winds and a storm surge forecast to be as high as 20 feet.”
Tropical storm blogger Dr. Jeff Masters has been tracking Hurricane Ike, and he’s unequivocal about the threat of this “freak storm”:
Hurricane Ike’s winds remain at Category 2 strength, but Ike is a freak storm with extreme destructive storm surge potential. Ike’s pressure fell rapidly last night to 944 mb, but the hurricane did not respond to the pressure change by increasing its maximum winds in the eyewall. Instead, Ike responded by increasing the velocity of its winds away from the eyewall, over a huge stretch of the Gulf of Mexico. Another very unusual feature of Ike is the fact that the surface winds are much slower than the winds being measured aloft by the Hurricane Hunters. Winds at the surface may only be at Category 1 strength, even though Ike has a central pressure characteristic of a Category 3 or 4 storm. This very unusual structure makes forecasting the future intensity of Ike nearly impossible. . . . Ike is now larger than Katrina was, both in its radius of tropical storm force winds — 275 miles — and in it radius of hurricane force winds — 115 miles. For comparison, Katrina’s tropical storm and hurricane force winds extended out 230 and 105 miles, respectively. Ike’s huge wind field has put an extraordinarily large volume of ocean water in motion. When this swirling column of water hits the shallow waters of the Continental Shelf, it will be be forced up into a large storm surge which will probably rival the massive storm surge of Hurricane Carla of 1961. Carla was a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds at landfall, and drove a 10 foot or higher storm surge to a 180-mile stretch of Texas coast. A maximum storm surge of 22 feet was recorded at Port Lavaca, Texas.
Masters estimates that Hurricane Ike will do “$20-$30 billion in damage.”
If we don’t change direction to build a green economy now, our entire planet will be staggered by climate change, as Thomas Fingar, “the top analyst in the U.S. intelligence community,” warned this week, the seventh anniversary of 9/11.