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Storm Surge – Adam Sobel


Storm Surge

Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate, and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future

Adam Sobel

Genre: Environment

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 14, 2014

Publisher: Harper Wave


A renowned scientist takes us through the devastating and unprecedented events of Hurricane Sandy, using it to explain our planet’s changing climate, and what we need to do to protect ourselves and our cities for the future. Was Hurricane Sandy a freak event—or a harbinger of things to come?  Was climate change responsible?  What connects the spiraling clouds our satellites saw from space, the brackish water that rose up over the city’s seawalls, and the slow simmer of greenhouse gases? Why weren't we better prepared? In this fascinating and accessible work of popular science, atmospheric scientist and Columbia University professor Adam Sobel addresses these questions, combining scientific explanation with first-hand experience of the event itself. He explains the remarkable atmospheric conditions that gave birth to Sandy and determined its path. He gives us insight into the sophisticated science that led to the forecasts of the storm before it hit, as well as an understanding of why our meteorological vocabulary failed our leaders in warning us about this unprecedented storm—part hurricane, part winter-type nor’easter, fully deserving of the title “Superstorm.” Storm Surge brings together the melting glaciers, the shifting jet streams, and the warming oceans to make clear how our changing climate will make New York and other cities more vulnerable than ever to huge storms—and how we need to think differently about these long-term risks if we hope to mitigate the damage. Engaging, informative, and timely, Sobel’s book provokes us to rethink the future of our climate and how we can better prepare for the storms to come.

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Storm Surge – Adam Sobel

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In New York City, rising seas could cause Sandy-like floods every five years.

The demonstrations call on households, cities, and institutions to withdraw money from banks financing projects that activists say violate human rights — such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and efforts to extract oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

The divestment campaign Mazaska Talks, which is using the hashtag #DivestTheGlobe, began with protests across the United States on Monday and continues with actions in Africa, Asia, and Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday. Seven people were arrested in Seattle yesterday, where activists briefly shut down a Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo.

The demonstrations coincide with a meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, involving a group of financial institutions that have established a framework for assessing the environmental and social risks of development projects. Organizers allege the banks have failed to uphold indigenous peoples’ right to “free, prior, and informed consent” to projects developed on their land.

“We want the global financial community to realize that investing in projects that harm us is really investing in death, genocide, racism, and does have a direct effect on not only us on the front lines but every person on this planet,” Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network community organizer, said in a statement.


In New York City, rising seas could cause Sandy-like floods every five years.

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Is the Louisiana Flooding More Devastating Than Hurricane Sandy?

Mother Jones

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The relief effort in Louisiana is ramping up after 10 days of monumental flooding. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama will visit Baton Rouge to survey the damage and find out how the federal government can help. The Red Cross has repeatedly described the flooding as “the worst natural disaster to strike the United States” since Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012.

But for those who aren’t on the ground in Louisiana, it can be difficult to understand what that really means. Here are some numbers that compare the two disasters.

Deaths and damaged homes: Thirteen people have died and about 60,000 homes have been damaged in the flooding that began in Louisiana on August 12. As of Friday, the Obama administration listed 20 parishes in the state as disaster areas, making federal funding available to assist those communities. Hurricane Sandy had a bigger death toll, claiming 72 lives in the United States and damaging 200,000 homes. But that storm hit a much wider swath of land, including metropolitan centers like New York City, whose population is nearly double that of the entire state of Louisiana.

People in shelters: When you compare the storms in terms of the numbers of people in shelters, the situation is similar.

“The Red Cross has mobilized our largest sheltering and feeding effort since Superstorm Sandy with the flooding in Louisiana,” said Molly Dalton, a spokeswoman for the humanitarian organization. “It’s the largest volume of people in need of emergency shelter in the last four years…In addition, FEMA has reported really high numbers of people registering for emergency assistance, which is another indicator we’re going by.”

About five days after Hurricane Sandy, she said, the Red Cross had 11,000 people in 250 shelters across 16 states. One week into that relief effort, it had about 7,000 people in shelters, “and we’re seeing about the same over the last week” in Louisiana, Dalton said on Friday. “Thursday night we had 3,900 people in 28 shelters, but at the peak of the response we had 10,000 people in 50 shelters in Louisiana. So it’s going down, but there are still a lot of people in shelters.” Sunday night, the Red Cross had nearly 3,000 people in 19 shelters across the state.

Looking at the big picture, the Red Cross and partners have provided more than 40,000 overnight stays since flooding began in Louisiana. That compares with 74,000 overnight stays during the entire relief effort for Hurricane Sandy, and 3.8 million overnight stays for Hurricane Katrina victims who where spread across 27 states.

“It’s not possible to estimate the full impact of the Louisiana floods this early in the response, and every disaster is different, so it would be difficult to make any comparison to past disasters,” another Red Cross spokesperson told Mother Jones on Monday. “But we do know that this is going to be a massive response.”

Meals served: “So far in Louisiana in the first week, we’ve served 158,000 meals, and if you look at the same point in Sandy, we had served 164 thousand,” Dalton said Friday. “So as far as what we’re seeing then and what we’re seeing now, it’s very, very similar.”

It’s important to remember, she said, that Hurricane Sandy struck many more states, stretching from New England as far south as the District of Columbia. “This is just one area of Louisiana,” she added. “So if you look at it that way…it’s a very devastating disaster.”

At the peak of the deluge, Louisiana was hit by 6.9 trillion gallons of rain between August 8 and August 14, or roughly 10.4 million Olympic-size swimming pools‘ worth of water. The flooding is receding now, particularly in the northern reaches of the state, though some areas in the south will take longer to dry out, says Gavin Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. “It’s going down everywhere now,” he says. “There’s nothing worsening at this point.”

The Red Cross estimates the relief effort in Louisiana could cost at least $30 million, though that number may grow as relief workers learn more about the scope of the disaster. As of Monday, the humanitarian organization had received about $7.8 million in donations and pledges.

While Hurricane Sandy and the recent Louisiana flooding were devastating, they pale in comparison to Louisiana’s other famous disaster, Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast 10 years ago, killing at least 1,833 people.

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Is the Louisiana Flooding More Devastating Than Hurricane Sandy?

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New York City hopes a 10-foot wall can save it from rising seas

New York City hopes a 10-foot wall can save it from rising seas

By on Jul 6, 2016Share

New York City is in trouble.

Location, population, and a massive underground infrastructure system: All this makes New York especially vulnerable to climate change. This was most starkly felt in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, when more than 88,000 buildings flooded, 250,000 vehicles were destroyed, and 44 people were killed. It’s cost $60 billion to rebuild damaged areas, much of which is being paid for by the federal government.

In an effort to stave off another Sandy, the city is prepared to wall off one of its wealthiest areas, Lower Manhattan, from massive storms and rising seas. Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell writes that New York will break ground later this year on the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project, a 10-foot-high reinforced wall that will run two miles along the East River.

The plan, called the Big U, is the brain child of Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group, which won a $930 million competition sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2014. Based on a video from the design firm, the $3 billion project looks more like a park than a wall. There is space for gardening, recreation, walking, and dining, and indoor and outdoor markets.

It is not, however, without critics. Urban planners told Goodell they doubt the final design will include any of the recreational spaces. It’s just too expensive. “When it’s done, it’s just going to be a big dumb wall,” one architect said. Plus, there is the wall’s location. While Wall Street might be safe from the storm, the wall could actually make flooding in neighboring Brooklyn worse.

Regardless, it will take more than a wall around Lower Manhattan to save New York residents and businesses. As Goodell notes, New York might prevent another Sandy, but not the worsening storms expected from climate change. The solution requires more than just a big wall; it requires comprehensive rethinking of government policy and infrastructure spending, and a new approach to combatting long-term threats.


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New York City hopes a 10-foot wall can save it from rising seas

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Fox News’ Parent Company Is Really Worried About Global Warming

Mother Jones

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The day after Superstorm Sandy devastated much of the East Coast, Al Gore issued a statement linking the storm to climate change. That’s when Fox News went on the attack.

“These global warming claims have been debunked time and time again,” declared Eric Bolling, a former crude oil trader who is now one of the network’s most inflammatory hosts. “Look, it’s weather. Weather changes. Things happen. It has nothing to do with global warming.”

But Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, sees things differently.

Earlier this month, a London-based organization called CDP released hundreds of questionnaires it collected from corporations—including 21st Century Fox—that had agreed to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and outline the risks global warming could pose to their business. In its submission to CDP, 21st Century Fox noted that climate change “may increase the frequency and power of tropical cyclones” and that the resulting storms could hurt its bottom line. And the company cited Sandy as a prime example:

In the current reporting year, 21st Century Fox was affected by Superstorm Sandy through filming interruptions, travel delays, facility and equipment damange sic and box office closings in the Northeast U.S. The storm showed that 21st Century Fox can be negatively impacted by climate-related weather impacts. Severe weather and climate change also pose physical risks to 21st Century Fox’s supply chain, such as the ability and timeliness with which products and services can be delivered to and from the company.

An entertainment colossus with businesses that include everything from right-wing cable news to blockbuster movies to satellite television, 21st Century Fox is one of two media companies led by Rupert Murdoch. The other is News Corp, which controls newspapers worldwide and which split from 21st Century Fox last year. In its own response to CDP, News Corp also cited Sandy, similarly warning that climate change could disrupt its business by potentially increasing the “frequency and power of tropical cyclones.”

Indeed, Sandy cost Murdoch’s media empire more than $2 million in “damage and filming delays,” according to the documents.

The storm caused significant damage and shutdowns at News Corp plants, and it reportedly disrupted delivery of the Wall Street Journal. (According to one of the documents, “weather-related missed deliveries” of the Journal have been increasing over the last three years.) Murdoch’s entertainment business also took a hit. For example, 21st Century Fox reported that Sandy “reduced sales in a key market” and cited estimates that the storm was largely responsible for a 12 to 25 percent drop in box office sales. And flooding in Brooklyn damaged the set of the The Americans—a TV drama produced by Fox Television Studios—forcing the company to postpone filming. (A Fox spokesperson said the delay lasted “less than two weeks” while the necessary repairs were made.)

Of course, News Corp and Fox were far from the only businesses impacted by Sandy. Delta Airlines, for instance, told CDP that it lost $75 million in revenue. Abercrombie & Fitch lost more than $10 million in sales. And utility giant Con Edison shelled out more than $500 million to fix damage caused by the storm.

But the Murdoch companies’ statements linking Sandy’s devastation to climate change represent a striking contrast to the global warming commentary that often appears in their news outlets. Fox News, in particular, is a hotbed of climate denial; a recent Union of Concerned Scientists study found that fully 72 percent of the network’s climate segments contained “misleading” statements. A Fox editor once directed reporters to cast doubt on temperature data showing that the Earth has warmed.

On the newspaper side, the Wall Street Journal regularly publishes editorials and opinion pieces skeptical of climate science. And according to a report last year from the Australian Center for Independent Journalism, News Corp’s Australian papers are a “major reason” why that country’s media is “a world leader in the promotion of scepticism.”

Fox News, two weeks before Superstom Sandy Screenshot: Media Matters/Fox News

This tension is nothing new for Murdoch’s companies. In 2011, Fox News hosts were attacking climate scientists even as Murdoch was announcing that News Corp had become carbon neutral. Media Matters (my former employer) wrote at the time that the “contrast between what News Corp’s chairman says and what its employees actually do is a stark illustration of the company’s attempt to play both sides of the climate issue.”

The companies’ concerns about possible climate disruptions go far beyond Sandy. “To the extent that any increase in frequency of extreme events can be correlated to a trend like climate change,” writes 21st Century Fox in its CDP submission, “there is a continued need to prepare for business disruptions.” It warns that “extended and severe droughts” could worsen wildfires in Southern California, where much of its entertainment business is based. And it cites recent wildfires in Russia and floods in Australia that “disrupted film and TV productions and caused property damage.”

News Corp has similar concerns about increasing wildfire risk, writing that its Australian businesses operate “in regions with bushfire risks, and 2013 saw the extreme fire season start earlier than previous years.” And the company points to another—less obvious—threat from climate change. As droughts become more frequent and more severe, writes News Corp, there could be unpredictable consequences for the forestry industry that produces the paper its newspapers are printed on. But don’t worry: The Wall Street Journal’s climate-change editorials are available online.

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Fox News’ Parent Company Is Really Worried About Global Warming

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Another Day, Another School Shooting

Mother Jones

A school shooting took place inside the cafeteria of Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington state on Friday. The suspected gunman, a student at the high school, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to CNN. Federal officials say up to five people were shot. Roughly 50 people were present in the cafeteria at the time. At least one student has been killed, four others injured.

If you feel like you’re stuck watching some kind of awful repeat programming, it’s because you are: According to data gathered by the reform group Everytown for Gun Safety, Friday’s is the 87th shooting incident at a school since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary nearly two years ago.

For a detailed look into the rise of mass shootings in America, see our latest coverage here.

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Another Day, Another School Shooting

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How Climate Change Crushed My Cars

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How Climate Change Crushed My Cars

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Facebook Cracks Down on Illegal Gun Sales

Mother Jones

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Facebook has officially decided that it doesn’t like shady gun deals. On Wednesday, the social-sharing behemoth announced significant policy changes aimed at policing gun trafficking on its platform: The company will delete posts that offer to buy or sell guns without background checks, block users under the age of 18 from viewing gun listings, and require all gun pages and groups to prominently refer to laws governing gun sales. Facebook will also apply controls to its photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram, which has also grown as an outlet for gun trafficking.

The move comes after weeks of pressure spearheaded by Moms Demand Action, the grassroots advocacy group formed after the Sandy Hook massacre that recently merged with Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Moms Demand Action says it drew more than 230,000 supporters for a petition urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom to deal with the issue. “Our campaign showed how easy it is for minors, felons and other dangerous people to get guns online,” founder Shannon Watts said in a statement. “We are happy that these companies listened to American mothers and we believe these changes are a major step toward making sure people who buy or sell guns on their platforms know the law, and follow it.”


Exactly how Facebook will go about enforcing the new policies is unclear, and it remains to be seen how effectively the company will be able to control such activity on its pages. But at a minimum these changes—which also allow Facebook users to flag suspicious posts—should help diminish the opportunity for kids and felons to acquire firearms.

Yet, would-be criminals may simply flock elsewhere, as there remains at least one major social-sharing site where such deals can easily go down: Reddit. As we were the first to report back in January, Reddit hosts thousands of for-sale listings for military-style assault rifles, semi-automatic handguns, high-capacity magazines, and other weaponry. The site appears to be particularly ripe for dubious gun deals, because most of its users operate anonymously—and because, as a company official confirmed to us, Reddit does not track the gun transactions on its site and has no idea whether they are conducted legally. That didn’t stop the company from granting its users permission to engrave Reddit’s official logo on assault rifles.

Moms Demand Action says that it plans to keep pressuring companies to act in the interest of gun safety, though according to a spokesperson the group has had no conversations with Reddit yet.

via Reddit

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Facebook Cracks Down on Illegal Gun Sales

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Finding Trash and Worse, but So Far, No Ship With Treasure

After Hurricane Sandy’s watery wrath remade parts of New York City’s coastline, could a long lost ship have finally been found off the South Bronx? Taken from:  Finding Trash and Worse, but So Far, No Ship With Treasure ; ;Related ArticlesCity Room: A Quiet Beauty Flying ByA Bet on the EnvironmentErrors Cast Doubt on Japan’s Cleanup of Nuclear Accident Site ;


Finding Trash and Worse, but So Far, No Ship With Treasure

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Extreme heat reveals extreme infrastructure challenges

Extreme heat reveals extreme infrastructure challenges

WMATALast summer, high temperatures caused a “heat kink” in the D.C. metro tracks.

Having trouble beating the heat this summer? Imagine how your infrastructure feels.

Last summer, we told you about extreme heat leading to buckling roads, melting runways, and kinky railroad tracks. Now we’re also hearing about droopy power lines and grounded airplanes.

NPR’s Science Friday hosted a discussion last week with Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, about how cities can adapt to hotter temperatures and other climate impacts like floods and rising sea levels. Here’s Arroyo:

… the thing to keep in mind is that this infrastructure is built for the past conditions in our local area. So, it’s not to say that we can’t change our infrastructure with climate change in mind, whether it be climate change impacts along the coast, like storm surge or sea level rise, but it’s obviously going to take time and it’s going to take money.

Arroyo and host Ira Flatow talked about some of the solutions cities are considering or already implementing to make their systems more resilient. The simplest and most obvious one: locating backup generators above ground level so flooding won’t render them useless. (Arroyo also points out the irony that backup generators are powered by fossil fuels.) Utilities have started to build power lines with shorter, squatter telephone poles less likely to be felled in a windstorm; D.C. is even beginning a project to bury its power lines underground, although that approach doesn’t make as much sense for flood-prone areas. A caller named Jim from St. George, Utah, talks about how reflective building materials enhance the urban heat island effect. D.C. is also helping property owners install green roofs with the revenue from a plastic-bag fee.

In terms of preventing the kind of massive system failure that, after Hurricane Sandy, stranded folks in high-rise apartment buildings without heat or electricity for over a week, Arroyo points to distributed power and smart grids as a solution, and also notes that having a fleet of vehicles not powered by oil comes in handy in a disaster situation:

Smart Grid, which we often think about [as necessary] for distributed generation and renewable power to come online, can also be an important solution when it comes to some of these extreme weather events because you can actually cut off the power of the system that’s down and you can reroute power, especially to the places like hospitals and schools that you need to [restore power to] right away. And we also saw after Superstorm Sandy that some of the clean fuel vehicles — the natural-gas trucks in Long Island, for example — were able to remove debris when everybody recalls there were those long lines for weeks at a time for regular gasoline and diesel.

But as Arroyo noted above, the problem with such large-scale solutions is — you guessed it — money. Government at every level, reluctant to push for any project that would incur more debt, is holding off on crucial infrastructure upgrades. But as a New York Times guest columnist points out, the future cost of not making these improvements is far greater:

A prudent investment is one whose future returns exceed its costs — including interest cost if the money is borrowed. Opportunities meeting that standard abound in the infrastructure domain. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the nation has a backlog of some $3.6 trillion in overdue infrastructure maintenance. …

Austerity advocates object that more deficit spending now will burden our grandchildren with crushing debt. That might be true if the proposal were to build bigger houses and stage more lavish parties with borrowed money — as Americans, in fact, were doing in the first half of the last decade. But the objection makes no sense when applied to long-overdue infrastructure repairs. A failure to undertake that spending will gratuitously burden our grandchildren. …

Now austerity backers urge — preposterously — that infrastructure repairs be postponed until government budgets are in balance. But would they also tell an indebted family to postpone fixing a leaky roof until it paid off all its debts? Not only would the repair grow more costly with the delay, but the water damage would mount in the interim. Families should pay off debts, yes, but not in ways that actually increase their indebtedness in the longer term. The logic is the same for infrastructure.

While we’re waiting for lawmakers to figure out that infrastructure improvements — which also create jobs, by the way — are a worthy investment, here’s a sobering reminder from Arroyo of just how crucial an organized government response is in a disaster situation:

I mean, how many of us have provisions if we have an extreme storm event that puts out power for a few days to be able to, you know, have the food and the water that we need, to be able to have a backup if, you know, we’re only on cell phones and those go down. How do we communicate with people? I mean, people really do need to make plans for this at every level of government in our society.

Claire Thompson is an editorial assistant at Grist.

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Extreme heat reveals extreme infrastructure challenges

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