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Hurricanes to Deliver a Bigger Punch to Coasts

Hurricanes to Deliver a Bigger Punch to Coasts

Mozambique flooded coast after Cyclone Idai

When tropical cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira, Mozambique on March 14, a spokesperson for the UN World Meteorological Organization called it possibly the the worst weather-related disaster to hit the southern hemisphere.

This massive and horrifying storm caused catastrophic flooding and widespread destruction of buildings and roads in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi feared the death toll might rise to more than 1,000people.

Cyclones, also known as hurricanes or typhoons, are intense wind storms that can take thousands of lives and cause billions of dollars in damage. They generate large ocean waves and raise water levels by creating a storm surge. The combined effects cause coastal erosion, flooding and damage to anything in its path.

Although other storms have hit this African coast in the past, the storm track for cyclone Idai is fairly rare. Warmer-than-usual sea-surface temperatures were directly linked to the unusually high number of five storms near Madagascar and Mozambique in 2000, including tropical cyclone Eline. Warmer ocean temperatures could also be behind the intensity of cyclone Idai, as the temperature of the Indian Ocean is 2 C to 3 C above the long-term average.

Climate change and ocean warming may be linked to the increasing intensity of storms making landfall and to the development of strong hurricanes reaching places not affected in recent history. These regions may not be prepared with the coastal infrastructure to withstand the extreme forces of these storms.

The Role of Climate Change

Scientists are working to improve their forecasts for hurricane winds and waves, and research on ocean and atmosphere interactions is boosting our understanding of the relationship between climate and the formation of hurricanes. Still, there is considerable uncertainty in predicting trends in extreme weather conditions 100 years into the future. Some computer simulations suggest possible changes in these storms due to climate change.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Record 7 Named Storms Are Swirling Across The Globe – Has ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ Arrived?

A Record 7 Named Storms Are Swirling Across The Globe – Has ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ Arrived?

Is something extremely unusual happening to our planet?  At this moment, Hurricane Florence is just one of seven named storms that are currently circling the globe.  That matches the all-time record, and it looks like that record will be broken very shortly as a couple more storms continue to develop.  Back in 2004, a Hollywood blockbuster entitled “The Day After Tomorrow” depicted a world in which weather patterns had gone mad.  One of the most impressive scenes showed nearly the entire planet covered by hurricane-type storms all at once.  Of course things are not nearly as bad as in that film, but during this hurricane season we have definitely seen a very unusual number of hurricanes and typhoons develop.  As our planet continues to change, could this become “the new normal”?

As I mentioned above there are currently seven named storms that are active, but an eighth is about to join them, and that would break the all-time record

The Hurricane season is causing devastation from the Pacific to the Atlantic as seven active storms are currently swirling across the globe – with high chances an eighth powerful storm will soon develop to break an all-time record.

And actually there is an additional storm that is also developing in the Pacific which could bring the grand total to nine.

Overall, there have been 9 named storms in the Atlantic and 15 names storms in the Pacific since the official start of the hurricane season.

That is not normal.

In fact, one veteran meteorologist has said that he has “NEVER seen so much activity in the tropics”…

Far from being the biggest threat facing the US coastline this hurricane season, Florence will be followed by several other storms that rapidly strengthening in the Atlantic.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“I’ve Never Seen Anything Like This”: Meteorologists Expect Florence To Stall And Hammer The East Coast “For Days”

“I’ve Never Seen Anything Like This”: Meteorologists Expect Florence To Stall And Hammer The East Coast “For Days”

The bizarre story of Hurricane Florence just keeps becoming even more strange.  The good news is that meteorologists are telling us that the storm is expected to lose intensity as it approaches the east coast, but the really, really bad news is that it is now being projected that Florence will slow down and finally stall just off the coastline.  In a worst-case scenario, the Carolinas and Georgia could be pounded with wind and rain “for days”, and some areas of North Carolina could end up being buried under nine feet of water.  And even though the peak wind speed of Florence has diminished some, the storm just continues to expand in size.  That means that it will ultimately hit a larger portion of the east coast than originally anticipated, and the overall economic cost will also ultimately be worsethan the experts were forecasting.

The word “unprecedented” is being used a lot in conjunction with this storm.  It is behaving in ways that it shouldn’t be, and this “strange stall” along the east coast is absolutely baffling the experts.

While discussing this “stall”, Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Postel stated that he had “never seen anything like this”

The weird saga of Hurricane Florence, which has already carved an unprecedented path across the Atlantic, is forecast to persist with a strange stall and trek along the Southeast coast.

Instead of roaring ashore and quickly heading inland and weakening, as most storms do, Hurricane Florence should instead “stall near the coast and then parallel southwestward toward Georgia,” Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Postel said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

People Are “Fighting For Food” As Authorities Warn Florence “Could Produce A Disaster Comparable” To Hurricane Katrina

People Are “Fighting For Food” As Authorities Warn Florence “Could Produce A Disaster Comparable” To Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Florence is about to make a “direct hit” on the east coast, and public officials are making one ominous declaration about this storm after another.  Florence is being called “extremely dangerous”, “a monster”, “the worst in 60 years” and “the storm of a lifetime”.  By the end of this week we shall see if this storm lives up to the hype, but at this point it is definitely an immensely powerful storm.  Hurricanes of this magnitude very rarely come this far north, and panic is starting to set in all across the mid-Atlantic region as people realize that this is really happening.  Over a million people are in the process of evacuating, and it is being reported that there is “fighting for food” at the stores that still have some supplies left…

“It was chaotic! Oh my goodness, long lines!” said Fatimah Spivey.

Reilly Norman described it as “a mess in there; it’s wiped out clean.”

The water aisles were especially bare — empty shelf after empty shelf.

“We came around 1 and all the waters were gone,” said Blake Swain. “Now, it’s just people fighting for food.”

Interestingly, federal officials actually conducted a “simulation” that involved a category 4 hurricane hitting the mid-Atlantic region back in late April and early May

Just months ago, disaster planners simulated a Category 4 hurricane strike alarmingly similar to the real-word scenario now unfolding on a dangerously vulnerable stretch of the East Coast.

That “simulation” produced “catastrophic damage” along the east coast, and as a result some experts are now concerned “that Hurricane Florence could produce a disaster comparable to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina“…

A fictional “Hurricane Cora” barreled into southeast Virginia and up the Chesapeake Bay to strike Washington, D.C., in the narrative created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Argonne National Laboratory.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hurricane Florence To Intensify “To Near Category 5 Strength” And There Are 12 Nuclear Power Reactors In The Carolinas

Hurricane Florence To Intensify “To Near Category 5 Strength” And There Are 12 Nuclear Power Reactors In The Carolinas

The latest forecast is projecting that Hurricane Florence will strengthen “to near category 5 strength” before it makes landfall in the Carolinas, and it is being called “a serious threat to lives and property”.  It is extremely rare for a hurricane of this intensity to come this far north, and one expert is claiming that Florence “has the potential to be the most destructive hurricane we’ve had in modern history for this region.”  At this time, the government is warning of “a life-threatening storm surge” of up to 20 feet or higher, “life-threatening freshwater flooding”, and “damaging hurricane-force winds”.  But there is another factor that not a lot of people are talking about.  There are 12 nuclear power reactors in the Carolinas, including two that are located right along the coast.

According to Google, there are 7 nuclear power reactors in South Carolina…

South Carolina hosts seven operating nuclear power reactors: Catawba Units 1 & 2, Oconee Units 1, 2 & 3, H. B.

And Google says that there are 5 nuclear power reactors in North Carolina…

North Carolina hosts five operating nuclear power reactors: Brunswick Units 1 & 2, McGuire Units 1 & 2, and Shearon Harris Unit 1. These account for nearly 32% of electricity generation in the state.

It is the two reactors at the Brunswick plant that are of the most concern because they sit right along the coast and they are directly in the projected path of the storm.

The following is what Wikipedia has to say about those reactors…

The Brunswick nuclear power plant, named for Brunswick County, North Carolina, covers 1,200 acres (490 ha). The site is adjacent to the town of Southport, North Carolina, and to wetlands and woodlands, and was opened in 1975.

The site contains two General Electric boiling water reactors, which are cooled by water collected from the Cape Fear Riverand discharged into the Atlantic Ocean.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What we learned about the climate system in 2017 that should send shivers down the spines of policy makers 

What we learned about the climate system in 2017 that should send shivers down the spines of policy makers 

Much of what happened in 2017 was predictable: news of climate extremes became, how can I put it … almost the norm. There was record-breaking heat on several continents, California’s biggest wildfire (extraordinarily in the middle of winter), an ex-tropical cyclone hitting Ireland (yes, Ireland) in October, and the unprecedented Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that swept through the Atlantic in August. The US government agency, the NOAA, reported that there were 16 catastrophic billion-dollar weather/climate events in the USA during 2017.

And 2017 “marks the first time some of the (scientific) papers concluded that an event could not have occurred — like, at all — in a world where global warming did not exist. The studies suggested that the record-breaking global temperatures in 2016, an extreme heat wave in Asia and a patch of unusually warm water in the Alaskan Gulf were only possible because of human-caused climate change”, Reuters reported.

At both poles, the news continues to be not good. At the COP23 in Bonn, Pam Pearson, Founder and Director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, warned that the cryoshere is becoming “an irreversible driver of climate change”. She said that most cryosphere thresholds are determined by peak temperature, and the length of time spent at that peak, warning that “later, decreasing temperatures after the peak are largely irrelevant, especially with higher temperatures and longer duration peaks”. Thus “overshoot scenarios”, which are now becoming the norm in policy-making circles (including all 1.5°C scenarios) hold much greater risks.
As well, Pearson said that  2100 is a misleading and minimising measure of cryosphere response: “When setting goals, it is important to look to new irreversible impacts and the steady state circumstances.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Life Is Like for a Million People in Puerto Rico Who STILL Don’t Have Power

What Life Is Like for a Million People in Puerto Rico Who STILL Don’t Have Power

If you ever wondered what it would look like if the grid collapsed here on the mainland, the island of Puerto Rico is a tragic, real-life case study. These stories show us what life is like for more than a million people who STILL don’t have power and running water nearly 3 months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated their communities.

According to a website showing the status of utilities on the island, four months after two hurricanes wrought havoc, 32% of Puerto Ricans are still without power and nearly 10% are still without running water. However, even those who have running water must boil it.

But statistics don’t tell the real story.

At first, it was a war zone.

In the first days after the grid went down, chaos ruled. I vetted as many of the stories as I could and concluded:

…there is very little food, no fresh water, 97% are still without power, limited cell signals have stymied communications, and hospitals are struggling to keep people alive. There is no 911. Help is not on the way. If you have no cash, you can’t buy anything. As people get more desperate, violence increases. (source)

A friend wrote this post about her family on Puerto Rico:

“My family has lost everything. My uncle with stage 4 cancer is in so much pain and stuck in the hospital. However, conditions in the island are far worse than we imagined and my greatest fear has been made reality. The chaos has begun. The mosquitos have multiplied like the plague. Dead livestock are all over the island including in whatever fresh water supplies they have.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Europe’s hurricane-fueled wildfires might become a recurring nightmare

REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
WE DID START THE FIRE

Europe’s hurricane-fueled wildfires might become a recurring nightmare

As the storm, named Ophelia, approached, it was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the eastern Atlantic. Although weather watchers were initially focused most closely on Ireland, where the storm made landfall, its deadliest impact occurred hundreds of miles south in Portugal and Spain.

There, strong winds stoked hundreds of wildfires, killing more than 40 people. The ghastly images from southwestern Europe looked less like real life than illustrations from a cautionary fairy tale about the end of the world. Being there, as one person wrote, was like “a nightmare world of smoke and ash.”

These fires would have been the deadliest in Portugal’s history, were it not for massive blazes in June that killed more than 60 people, trapping many in their cars, as flames advanced too quickly for them to escape.

With its vast forests and typically warm and dry summers, Portugal is already Europe’s wildfire capital. And in recent decades, its profound and unique socioeconomic vulnerability to fire has only grown. Last year, half of the fire acreage burned in all of Europe lay in Portugal — a trend attributed both to haphazard forestry practices and climate change bringing hotter and drier weather.

This year, the sheer scale of the fires has been staggering. On Sunday alone, wildfires burned at least 300,000 acres — more than is normally burned in an entire year. Smoke from the fires quickly spread as far away as London.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Linking Hurricanes to Climate Change? Not So Easy. 

Linking Hurricanes to Climate Change? Not So Easy.

The text below a reposting of something that I published on Oct 2, 2017 on “Medium”.  On the basis of data from Google Trends, I proposed that, on the average, the public had not perceived the link of climate change with the spate of hurricanes of 2017. A few weeks later, it seems that my observation was correct: the latest polls indicate that the American public is slowly (very slowly) awakening to the idea of human-caused climate change, but that the 2017 hurricane season has not triggered a substantial change of views. Here is the post.

Above: the results of a Google Trends search for the term “climate change”. The recent wave of Caribbean hurricanes has had little effect on the number of searches on the Web. Most people just didn’t think that hurricanes and climate change are linked to each other.

We all live inside our specific information cocoons where we hear from sources we tend to trust.

If you, like me, live in a cocoon where it is generally agreed that human-caused climate change is real and dangerous, then you would think that the recent series of hurricanes hitting the US should have made a great impact on the public perception of the climate change threat. The impression I had from the messages I received and what I read from my sources of information is of an onrush of excitation that made it clear to everybody sane in his/her mind that we need to act against climate change before it is too late.

Ahem, no.

This is a classic example of the working of echo chambers. Out there, in the world of the mainstream media, the link between hurricanes and climate change was occasionally mentioned but that had little or no effect on people’s perception of the issue.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hurricanes’ Unnatural Toll

Hurricane Maria aftermathHector Retamal/Getty Images

Hurricanes’ Unnatural Toll

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria were extraordinarily powerful storms, but the number of lives lost and the amount of damage caused were the result of human decisions. Two elements of human psychology sustain our irrational neglect of preventive measures, even as climate scientists warn that the risk of such storms will only continue to grow.

PRINCETON – The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began on June 1 and will end on November 30, is likely to be the most expensive on record. Hurricanes have killed close to 300 people in the region this season, and damage estimates so far stand at $224 billion. On a scale that measures the accumulated cyclonic energy of hurricanes, this season is the first to have recorded three storms each rated above 40. Fortunately, one of those three, Hurricane Jose, remained mostly at sea, where it did little harm; but Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico. Irma had an accumulated cyclonic energy of 66.6, the third-highest ever recorded.

Hurricane Harvey had less energy but brought record-breaking rain and flooding to Houston and other parts of Texas and Louisiana. Harvey may be the most expensive storm in US history, even exceeding the cost of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Employment figures show that the United States lost 33,000 jobs in September, which analysts attribute to the hurricanes. Then, just as the season seemed to be winding down, Hurricane Nate caused at least 24 deaths in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, before heading for the US.

Harvey, Irma, and Maria were extraordinarily powerful storms. But the number of lives lost and the amount of damage caused reflect human decisions. Houston’s notorious laissez-faire approach to zoning allowed houses to be built on flood plains.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Yes, the US Government Has Experimented With Controlling Hurricanes

(ANTIMEDIA) — The 2017 hurricane season has wrought more damage on the Caribbean and the Gulf Coast of the United States than any season in the last decade. Tropical Storm Harvey smashed into the Gulf, temporarily swallowing Houston and other low lying areas. Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma caused millions of dollars in damage to Florida, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands, leaving millions without power and water.

Along with the gusts of wind, property damage, and loss of life, this hurricane season also sparked a wide range of conspiracy theories regarding the possibility that the U.S. government or some other government could be manipulating the weather to strengthen hurricanes. These theories range from the idea that planes were spraying before and during the storms in order to help them grow and/or direct them at specific targets to others who believe the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), or a similar device, was used to heat up the ionosphere and “charge” the storms to cause more destruction.

There are dozens of YouTube channels where individuals focus specifically on weather manipulation and modification. They claim to have the expertise to study radar images and determine whether artificial elements were added to developing hurricanes. If you are interested in that type of research, see this. However, I will not be addressing the issue of whether or not the U.S. is currently manipulating hurricanes. I do not have the technical background to accurately report in that area. Instead, I will focus on the history of weather modification as it pertains to hurricanes. If you have limited knowledge on weather modification — or, perhaps, you even think it is a hoax — I encourage you to read on. If you are familiar with the history or science of weather modification, I also encourage you to read on, as I have included details I have not seen covered elsewhere.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Hurricane Damage To Trigger Fuel Glut

Hurricane Damage To Trigger Fuel Glut

Oil

Damage from hurricanes in the Caribbean, which sends a substantial amount of fuel oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast, could lead to a glut of the fuel, S&P Platts reported, citing sources with knowledge of the situation.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which made landfall in the Caribbean over the last two weeks, damaged several fuel storage terminals in the region, which are used to store fuel oil coming from the U.S. Atlantic coast, Europe, and Latin America. The fuel is then sent on to the Gulf Coast, Panama, and Asia.

After the damage, however, a lot of the fuel oil originally sent to the Caribbean terminals will likely be rerouted to the Gulf Coast, where there is already more than enough fuel oil. S&P Platts spoke to traders and brokers who said that cargoes of fuel oil are already being diverted and that this will add to a swelling glut. The glut was partially caused by increased fuel oil production: last week, the fuel oil yield from Gulf Coast refineries hit 3.8 percent, the highest since the beginning of 2014.

The situation, unless it changes quickly, which is unlikely, could have a dramatic effect on fuel oil prices. According to S&P Platts’ trading sources, currently the market for benchmark High Sulfur Fuel Oil on the Gulf Coast is in normal backwardation, with the spot price as of last Thursday at a premium of US$1.80 a barrel to the October HSFO swap. Related: Is Artificial Intelligence The Next Step In Total’s Tech Push?

The spike in prices came in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, when supply was limited and traders were eager to fulfill their orders. Naturally, this premium spurred greater interest in spot deals with the cargoes shipped to Houston. One such cargo, a bulky 500,000-barrel one, should arrive in Houston at the end of the month.

With supply swelling so fast, the backwardation could fast become contango, the sources warned, if a lot of fuel oil gets marketed in Houston instead of the Caribbean.

Who Gets Hit by Mortgage Losses in Harvey and Irma Areas?

Who Gets Hit by Mortgage Losses in Harvey and Irma Areas?

“We need to ask for a policy change because the burden with these losses is too big.”

Somebody is going to pay for losses on mortgages of homes that were destroyed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. It’s a just a question of who.

The taxpayer is on the hook, along with some investors. But then there are the servicers of mortgages guaranteed by the Government National Mortgage Association, for short Ginnie Mae. The largest of them is Wells Fargo, but they mostly include smaller non-banks such as PennyMac and Quicken Loans. The amounts could be large. And now they’re asking for a bailout of sorts.

In total, 4.3 million properties with nearly $700 billion in outstanding mortgage balances are located in FEMA-designated disaster areas in Texas and Florida, according to a preliminary estimate by Black Knight Financial Services:

  • Disaster areas of Hurricane Harvey: 1.18 million mortgaged properties with $179 billion in unpaid mortgages.
  • Disaster areas of Hurricane Irma: 3.14 million mortgaged properties with $517 billion in unpaid mortgages.

Many of these homes survived mostly unscathed. So the mortgage balances of homes that have been severely damaged or destroyed remain uncertain but are significant.

And who picks up the losses on these mortgages?

  • Federal flood insurance for insured homes, but payouts are capped. Taxpayers will bail out the insurance program.
  • Investors in private mortgage-backed securities (MBS) backed by mortgages that are not guaranteed by the government. Losses on those mortgages flow through to investors.
  • Banks take the losses on any mortgages they hold on their books and that are not guaranteed by the government.
  • Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE), such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, will be hit with losses on mortgages they guaranteed, packaged into MBS, and sold to investors. Some of the losses will be borne by private-sector investors via risk-transfer securities. The remaining losses will be borne by taxpayers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can You Really “Shut Down” a Nuclear Power Plant before a Hurricane?

Can You Really “Shut Down” a Nuclear Power Plant before a Hurricane?

Soothing words before the storm: “Our nuclear plants are now shut down.”

There are those who believe the answers to life’s most pressing questions can be found in one of two movies: “The Godfather” (part one) or “The Princess Bride.” In the latter movie, think of the Spaniard’s vaguely taunting response: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Which might also be the reply to: “Our nuclear plants are now shut down.”

Right now we are thinking about the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power stations in South Florida, in the aftermath of hurricane Irma. But we could have been referring to the South Texas Nuclear Project south of Houston, just a week or two earlier.

Those Westinghouse pressurized water reactors have six modes of operation, sort of like gears in a car. The highest level of performance, mode 1 includes power operations all the way up to 100% power. Mode 6, the lowest level of operation, describes a plant in the state of being refueled.

Senior management at NextEra’s utility subsidiary, Florida Power & Light, placed their nuclear reactors in mode 4, “hot shutdown,” as the hurricane advanced towards the plants. (Mode 5 is cold shutdown with far lower internal reactor temperatures.)

In so-called hot shutdown, a nuclear plant has one primary requirement for ongoing safe operation — a reliable supply of electricity (assuming competent staff of course).

Even though nuclear plants produce electricity for the grid, they also require large amounts of electricity to maintain their own operations particularly in this instance for: 1) cooling the fuel in the recently operating nuclear reactor core and 2) cooling the spent fuel pools where used fuel rods are placed after removal from the reactor. These activities are known as residual heat removal.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

On Repairing/Rebuilding 100,000+ Damaged Houses

On Repairing/Rebuilding 100,000+ Damaged Houses

Almost lost in all the dollar estimates of property damage is the human loss, suffering and stress.

I am not an expert in repairing flood damage, or in dealing with insurance companies, FEMA or all the other pieces that will go into homeowners getting the funding needed to repair or rebuild their homes.

But I do know a bit about construction after 44 years in the field, and I have been soberly reflecting on the many hurdles that face everyone involved in restoring / repairing tens of thousands of homes, more or less all at the same time.

Preliminary estimates set the number of flood-damaged homes in Houston at around 100,000. More recent estimates put the number at around 40,000.

No one yet knows how many homes in Florida have been damaged by Hurricane Irma, but the number will undoubtedly be a big one.

Here are some semi-random thoughts on the challenges of repairing/rebuilding so many dwellings in as short a period of time as possible:

1. The average cost of homes in Houston is reportedly around $300,000. Many coastal areas in Florida are similarly valued. Just as a guess, many of the affected homeowners probably have mortgages in the $200,000 range.

It’s been reported that only 1 in 6 in the affected areas of Houston have flood insurance, suggesting 85% of those whose homes were rendered unlivable will need to borrow money to fund the repairs.

It seems federal agencies offer homeowners loans for this purpose, or access to what is effectively a second mortgage.

If the repaired home will be worth $300,000–questionable, perhaps, for those houses which have been repeatedly flooded by lesser storms–then how much money will homeowners be willing to borrow to keep the home?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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