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Hurricane Sandy as Greek Tragedy

by Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation

Never has a hurricane been more aptly, if tragically, named than Sandy, the superstorm that flooded New York City and battered much of the East Coast….

Sandy is short for Cassandra, the Greek mythological figure who epitomizes tragedy. The gods gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy; depending on which version of the story one prefers, she could either see or smell the future. But with this gift also came a curse: Cassandra’s warnings about future disasters were fated to be ignored. That is the essence of this tragedy: to know that a given course of action will lead to disaster but to pursue it nevertheless.

And so it has been with America’s response to climate change. For more than twenty years, scientists and others have been warning that global warming, if left unaddressed, would bring a catastrophic increase in extreme weather—summers like that of 2012, when the United States endured the hottest July on record and the worst drought in fifty years, mega-storms like the one now punishing the East Coast.

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Frankenstorm: Meteorologist Warns Hurricane Sanday an Outgrowth of Global Warming’s Extreme Weather

by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground, warns that such a “Frankenstorm,” as it is called, is an outgrowth of the extreme weather changes caused by global warming. “When you do heat the oceans up more, you extend the length of hurricane season,” Masters says. “There’s been ample evidence over the last decade or so that hurricane season is getting longer — starts earlier, ends later. You’re more likely to get these sort of late October storms now, and you’re more likely to have this sort of situation where a late October storm meets up with a regular winter low-pressure system and gives us this ridiculous combination of a nor’easter and a hurricane that comes ashore, bringing all kinds of destructive effects.”

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Sandy and Digital Snow Days

by Mary Logan, A Prosperous Way Down

As I write this early on Tuesday morning, watching this game-changer of a storm, a myriad of thoughts go through my head. The storm event is just the beginning. Rivers will flood, and snows will accumulate. Recovery will be long and slow. Recovery will be hampered by problems with energy delivery, complexity, and density of populations. Just in time, digitized systems that are overly complex will be challenged. News will filter out slowly, with initial optimism about the extent of the damage, followed by increasingly pessimistic reports about the size and extent of the problems as communication begins to be reestablished. This post describes Sandy as a catastrophic pulse in relation to the problems of dense urban living, complexity, and digitization.

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The Superstorm

by Tom Whipple

The missing ingredient in nearly all the talk was an explanation of what a hurricane, even a small one, was doing in the North Atlantic at the end of October. The answer of course is global warming which even though it has raised average ocean temperatures by only 1o F. has extended the hurricane season enough to produce this calamity. We should give CNN some credit for the day after the storm they called an array of climate scientists to find out what happened. All of the scientists pointed a finger directly at global warming and noted that the problem was only going to get worse and worse as the sea level was rising and the arctic melting much faster than had been predicted five years ago.
For years climate scientists have warned us that seemingly minor changes in global temperatures would lead to unusual weather events having serious consequences. They clearly got it right, for in the past decade we have had several major hurricanes that tore up Gulf oil production and nearly did in New Orleans and several other Gulf towns; outbreaks of tornados that flattened towns in the mid-west; floods in the Mississippi valley; droughts in Texas and the corn belt; blizzards on the east coast; and two monster storms in a row slamming into the New York area.
by Lindsey Curren, Lindsey’s List

We live in a world dependent on electricity and we forget that being dependent on something — however wonderful that thing is — makes you vulnerable.

Even getting a back-up generator isn’t a painless solution for household resilience. A medium-size generator can cost $50 or more per day in fuel to run. And just hope that your local gas stations don’t lose power or sell out to panic buyers before you get there. In the long run, generators are dependent on fossil fuel inputs and fossil fuels are finite resources that are getting scarcer and more costly.

That’s why it’s a good idea to hedge your bets on the future with some low-tech options to keep your lifestyle gracious and enjoyable in disasters both natural and man-made.

So, in light of Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy, I thought I’d share a few prep tips for your consideration.

If it’s too late for you for this storm, get them in place for the next one, and for a future that’s sure to be more vulnerable to electrical disruptions and fuel scarcity as these kinds of storms become more frequent and the cost of fossil fuels rises as they deplete.

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Superstorm Sandy Speaks to Preparedness for Climate Disruption

by Sandra Postel, National Geographic

Instead of sparring over whether human-induced climate disruption is the cause of any particular flood or drought, we should be preparing for the more extreme weather that scientists warn is coming.

Preparedness for climate disruption is far more complex, to be sure.  It involves mitigating the harm by investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and climate-friendly transportation systems.  It involves building durable food systems and smarter water management.  And it involves strategically rebuilding our ecological infrastructure – including wetlands, floodplains and watersheds – so as to enlist nature’s help in mitigating both droughts and floods.

The lessons from Sandy couldn’t be clearer.  Invest in good monitoring and forecasting, so we know what’s coming.  Demand leaders who listen to the scientific intelligence, and act on it.  And as responsible citizens, work together to build secure, resilient communities.

You can donate to the Red Cross’s hurricane relief efforts here.

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Comment by Heather K on November 6, 2012 at 2:27pm

I"m thankful my east coast family does not live on the edge of the sea, and we welcome any friend who needs to relocate.  I wonder how many folks who have lost their homes, will reconsider relocating to land further away from the edge of the sea.....I wonder how many towns will put precious resources into rebuilding on the same landscape that the sea will again cover.....When I lived in NYC I was struck by how many New Yorkers perceived the city limits as the "edge of the world".....which helps me understand why so many did not leave when there was warning of the storms arrival.....More American families are  now creating 'emergency' plans that include bicycles, tents, cooking pots, water filters, sleeping pads & blankets.  .   .   My I remember to give thanks for each breath of fresh air and extend a hand of help and eyes of compassion to all who pass my way.

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