Monday ReadsPosted: August 28, 2017
The unfolding drama of the flooding of Houston and surrounding areas takes me back 12 years ago to Katrina when my community was surrounded by a similar hell realm full of water, the stench of death, and mass destruction. Right now, Houston is relying on skilled first responders, its local government, and neighbors. Soon, it will be a test of our country’s ability to help our own as well as the test of the charity of nations around the world.
What is it going to take for Republican decision makers to understand that some things are too big and too important to be left to the for-profit-motivated private sector of carpet baggers? When will they realize their constant denial of science and sycophantic support of the fossil fuel industry is driving us to epic catastrophe?
Twelve years ago I was hunkered down on a pink futon with my two yellow labs–Karma and Honey–and Miles in between the beds of a grad student from Macau and one from Japan. My cell phone could receive but not make calls. We were watching TV with the families of two other grad students that I had earlier told to get the hell out of dodge while they could still get a hotel room. One family from Turkey. The other from Jordan. I know what it’s like to be homeless, scared, broke, and confused. A day later, I discovered I had to go some place and that my university had failed to pay me. I was totally reliant on the goodness of others and much of that goodness came from the people of Texas and Nebraska and the American Tax Payer. There were a few local businesses that helped but the majority of help came from people and the Federal Government.
This is the kind of event that tests our character as a country and we have a soulless narcissist at its helm. I laugh at the ChristoFascist preachers who blame liberal political views for Gawd’s wrath as seen in these natural disasters. It seems more likely that their Gawd keeps testing Republican Presidents and finds their governing ways come short of dealing with hell and high water. The Republican Bushs and now a Trump have faced historic hurricanes. While the Clinton and Obama administrations have tried to rebuild our ability to respond through FEMA and other agencies, it took no time for this latest Republican disaster to seek to gut our ability to help our neighbors in need. It always amazes me that tax cuts for the wealthy come before helping our neighbors in harm’s way.
This destruction is a window into the future of climate change. This is what happens when humanity fails to either meaningfully restrict greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the damage that is certainly coming.
Now, before the inevitable pedant brigade pounces in, that doesn’t mean Harvey was definitely caused by climate change. Global temperatures have only markedly increased for a few decades, and extreme weather events are rare and random by definition. It will take many more years for enough data to be collected to be able to establish causality.
But what we can say is that climate science predicts with high confidence that increased temperatures will increase the likelihood of extreme weather.
It will make hurricanes that do form stronger. It may also increase the number of hurricanes, though that’s harder to predict with certainty. It’s also besides the point. A storm doesn’t need to qualify as a hurricane to pose many of the same dangers. Simple big storms can still have high winds, tornadoes, and especially flooding, which is the major danger along the Gulf Coast.
I’m calling real estate agents and getting out of here. I am too old to exist in red state beholden to oil and gas industries where people refuse to see that science is right. I’m too tired to live in areas where suburban sprawl and concrete provides run off for massive rain creating risks that all too often fall on the heads and homes of people like me. Climate change is likely responsible for the kinds of stalled, training storms like Harvey. Human destruction of nature’s ways of dealing with water exacerbates it.
Persistent episodes of extreme weather in the Northern Hemisphere summer have been shown to be associated with the presence of high-amplitude quasi-stationary atmospheric Rossby waves within a particular wavelength range (zonal wavenumber 6–8). The underlying mechanistic relationship involves the phenomenon of quasi-resonant amplification (QRA) of synoptic-scale waves with that wavenumber range becoming trapped within an effective mid-latitude atmospheric waveguide. Recent work suggests an increase in recent decades in the occurrence of QRA-favorable conditions and associated extreme weather, possibly linked to amplified Arctic warming and thus a climate change influence. Here, we isolate a specific fingerprint in the zonal mean surface temperature profile that is associated with QRA-favorable conditions. State-of-the-art (“CMIP5”) historical climate model simulations subject to anthropogenic forcing display an increase in the projection of this fingerprint that is mirrored in multiple observational surface temperature datasets. Both the models and observations suggest this signal has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability.
The increase in the occurrences of 100, 300 and 500 year events in my backyard is statistically significant. It also is positively correlated to Climate Change. That’s the science. Sea level rises have a lot to do with the destruction of the natural barriers to storm surge that are particularly a side product of things that the oil and gas industry do. This is the risk of that business forced onto humanity, nature, and the tax payer.
But Ojeda is watching the Atlantic hurricane season that begins on June 1 with more concern than usual. The retired Coast Guard employee worries that rising sea levels could make the next hurricane more destructive than those he’s lived through.
“That’s really scary to me,” the 70-year-old said.
A study released in May shows that rising sea levels threaten to make storm surges more dangerous, seemingly reinforcing Texas officials’ push for federal funding for a storm-surge barrier, or Ike Dike, to protect Galveston.
“Every storm surge today reaches higher because it starts from a higher level, because sea level is higher,” said study co-author Ben Strauss, a scientist who is vice president for sea level and climate impacts for Climate Central, a group of scientists and journalists dedicated to climate change awareness. “A small amount of sea-level rise can lead to an unexpectedly large increase in damages to most kinds of structures.”
Brian Streck, 62, a retired Galveston firefighter, has watched high tides creep into the streets around the house at the edge of West Galveston Bay, where he has lived for 37 years.
He has no patience for climate-change deniers who doubt seas are rising.
“I’ve witnessed it,” Streck said.
High tides once flooded the streets around his home about twice a year; the flooding in the last decade has increased to a dozen times a year.
“I’ve considered selling this place because eventually I’m going to have a lake house,” he said.
Scientific studies have established an acceleration in sea-level rise because of a warming atmosphere. Coal and oil burning and the destruction of tropical forests have increased heat-trapping gases that have warmed the planet by 1.8 degrees since 1880. Earth has been losing 13,500 square miles of ice annually since 1979, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Sea levels are generally rising faster along the Texas Gulf Coast and the western Gulf than the average globally, according to a January study by NOAA.
“The western Gulf is experiencing some of the highest rates of relative levels of sea-level rise in the country,” said NOAA oceanographer William Sweet, lead author of the study. “The ocean is not rising like water would in a bathtub.”
Sea-level rise is making storm surges larger, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas state climatologist at Texas A&M University in College Station.
“Compared to a storm that would have hit, say, 30 years ago, the additional storm surge we are talking about is on the order of … about 7 inches,” Nielsen-Gammon said.
The NOAA study found sea levels rising at more than double the rate estimated during the 20th century, increasing to more than 0.13 inch annually. NOAA made six projections of sea-level rise, from low to extreme, and found the global mean level under the lowest projection could rise 2.3 inches by 2020 and 3.5 inches by 2030. The extreme projection shows a 4.3-inch rise by 2020 and a 9.4-inch rise by 2030.
The rate of sea-level rise even under the lowest projection would increase the chances of severe flooding on the Texas Gulf Coast from storm surges or other causes from once every five years to once every two years by 2030 under the extreme projection, and 2060 under the low prediction.
“We’re not talking much longer than a mortgage cycle,” Sweet said. “I just bought a house, I’ve got a 30-year note. That’s 2047.”
By 2100, sea level is expected to rise between 1.3 feet and 31 feet, the NOAA study predicts; Galveston Island and most of the Texas coast would be swallowed up under the latter scenario.
Scientist Michael Mann keeps doing compelling science and making cogent arguments that are being ignored by policy makers. He’s the scientist behind the research on the “rain bombs”. That’s a term with a lot of click bait appeal. But, how do you get anyone to listen when you discuss things like this? What happens when a hurricane parks itself over you home or an intense thunderstorm sits over you city and just does nothing but dump rain for days on end in biblical amounts?
So Harvey was almost certainly more intense than it would have been in the absence of human- caused warming, which means stronger winds, more wind damage, and a larger storm surge (as an example of how this works, we have shown that climate change has led to a dramatic increase in storm surge risk in New York City, making devastating events like Superstorm #Sandy more likely (http://www.pnas.org/content/112/41/12610.full).
Finally, the more tenuous but potentially relevant climate factors: part of what has made Harvey such a devastating storm is the way it has stalled right near the coast, continuing to pummel Houston and surrounding regions with a seemingly endless deluge which will likely top out at nearly 4 feet of rainfall over a several days-long period before it is done.
The stalling is due to very weak prevailing winds which are failing to steer the storm off to sea, allowing it to spin around and wobble back and forth like a top with no direction. This pattern, in turn, is associated with a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the U.S. right now, with the jet stream pushed well to the north. This pattern of subtropical expansion is predicted in model simulations of human-caused climate change.
More tenuous, but possibly relevant still, is the fact that very persistent, nearly ‘stationary’ summer weather patterns of this sort, where weather anomalies (both high pressure dry hot regions and low-pressure stormy/rainy regions) stay locked in place for many days at a time, appears to be favored by human-caused climate change.
How will the Texas Representatives and Senators respond to the disaster in their own back yards? Will they fight funding they way they fought it for those impacted by Super Storm Sandy? Will Kremlin Caligula with his 2 second attention span be able to rise to the occasion of saving lives and help people rebuild and heal? What about threats to shut down the Federal Government over funds for the Wall?
The catastrophic floods brought by Hurricane Harvey to southeastern Texas will pose an immediate test for the White House and Congress, pressing policymakers to approve billions of dollars in recovery funds even though they haven’t agreed on much else this year.
White House officials and GOP leaders were already taking stock of the challenge on Sunday, even as the floodwaters in Texas — and the eventual cost of recovery — were still rising. One senior White House official and GOP aides on Capitol Hill said late Sunday they expected to begin discussing an “emergency” package of funding soon to help with relief and rebuilding efforts, even if agreement as to the size of such a package remained premature.
Harvey’s devastation poses President Trump’s first test in emergency assistance, potentially revealing whether he can overcome Congress’s deep divisions over spending and the budget to prioritize aid. It will also test whether Trump can suspend his adversarial governing style and even postpone his own agenda, notably an overhaul of the tax code, to assemble a major — and costly — package that could be directed to law enforcement, emergency relief, schools, infrastructure, hospitals, food banks and several other entities.
The storm comes as Washington was gripped with a budget battle and little time to resolve differences. Many government operations are funded through only the end of September, and Trump has threatened to partially shut down the government if lawmakers don’t approve $1.6 billion in funding to construct parts of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Harvey could upend that budget fight, pressuring politicians to reach a quick resolution. That is because a government shutdown could sideline agencies involved in a rescue and relief effort that officials are predicting will last years.
This battle starts after the battle first responders and volunteers are making to save lives ends. This is still an ongoing disaster. There is still very much potential, additional for flooding the next few days. It is still happening now. Two Reservoirs are being opened that will contribute to flooding. Resources will undoutedly be running short as well be tempers.
In Houston, reservoirs swollen by rain from Hurricane Harvey were opened early Monday, a move that was expected to flood more homes — but one that the Army Corps of Engineers says is needed to limit the scope of the disaster that’s threatening lives and property in Texas.
“If we don’t begin releasing now, the volume of uncontrolled water around the dams will be higher and have a greater impact on the surrounding communities,” said Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District. He warned residents to stay vigilant as water levels rise.
Around midday Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott activated the entire Texas National Guard to support communities cope with the flooding. Thousands of guard members were already deployed in the effort; the number now stands at roughly 12,000.
Gates to Houston’s reservoirs were opened as emergency crews and residents scramble to deal with the intense rains brought by Harvey, which became a tropical storm after making landfall as a Category 4 storm late Friday.
Houston set a new daily rainfall record Sunday, with 16.07 inches reported at the city’s international airport, the National Weather Service says. On Saturday and Sunday, more than 2 feet of rain (24.44 inches) fell.
Scientific American reminds us that Harvey had some disturbing features that has caused it to be so destructive. Is this our future? If so, will our policy makers rise to the challenge of disrupting our contribution to climate change and providing adequate federal funding and systems to support our neighbors in need because they failed to act when they could?
I have to admit that my Katrina PTSD is full force between the images on my TV, its 12th anniversary, and the knowledge that Harvey could still do irrational things like move back in to the Gulf to strengthen. It’s path and timing is still so uncertain. Now is the time we need heroes and leadership. The heroes are on the ground. We have to wait and see when it comes to the leadership.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today? Also, please Texas Sky Dancers! Let us know if we can help!!! Let us know if you’re okay!! We’re here for you!!!