It’s been a tense day listening to weather experts talk about “ferocious megastorm” Hurricane Sandy’s 900-mile width and huge energy. I lived in Manhattan for 25 years, and feel in my gut the jeopardy the city faces tomorrow, and for the indefinite future, from more intense, more frequent “extreme weather events.” In August 2011 Tropical Storm Irene lashed Manhattan with heavy rain and winds gusting to 65 MPH; Irene was the most powerful storm to hit New York in more than 25 years. Just a year later, the more powerful Hurricane Sandy is computer-model-projected to take a sharp left turn tonight over the Atlantic Ocean and head straight for New York , where she could cause much greater hurt than Irene.
The subways are already shut down by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and 375,000 residents in low-lying areas ordered to leave their homes for higher ground. Friends tell me that the city is working hard to prepare, doing things like boarding up subway entrances and gutters to protect the city’s complex underground systems from the unprecedented flooding a 6-to 11-foot storm surge, aggravated by full-moon high tides, would cause.
I hope and pray that the weathermen and women are wrong , and that Sandy continues going northeast and expends itself over the ocean instead of torturing American cities. But the climate science is settled, to my satisfaction at least, that human-caused global warming has already made “extreme weather events” more extreme and more frequent. Port cities like New York will continue in nature’s gunsights even if tomorrow turns out to be an easy, sunny day. To me, nature is shouting at us that humankind’s high consumption, particularly our burning four cubic miles of hydrocarbons each year, is too much for natural systems to handle and that we, not her, need to change, and quickly.
Image by Astronaut photograph ISS008-E-19646 was taken March 7, 2004, with a Kodak DCS760 digital camera equipped with an 50-mm lens, and is provided by the Earth Observations Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons