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McKibben writes: "I begin to sense what the future may be like, as more and more of the world finds itself facing ever-more-frequent assaults from the amped-up forces of the not-so-natural world."

Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy as the storm looked yesterday. (photo: NASA/Getty Images)
Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy as the storm looked yesterday. (photo: NASA/Getty Images)


'Frankenstorm' Is Just Right for Hurricane Sandy

By Bill McKibben, The Daily Beast

30 October 12

 

Sandy, the hurricane that appears set to pummel the East Coast, promises a historic potential for damage and a terrifying look at what may be in store for us - ever more frequent assaults of not-so-natural origin.

atching Sandy on her careening path toward the Eastern Seaboard scares me more than it would have 15 months ago. That's because my home state took the brunt of Irene, last year's "sprawling," "surly," "record-breaking" Atlantic storm. I know now exactly how much power a warm sea can contain and how far that pain can spread.

And in the process, feeling that fear, I begin to sense what the future may be like, as more and more of the world finds itself facing ever-more-frequent assaults from the amped-up forces of the not-so-natural world.

You can't, as the climate-change deniers love to say, blame any particular hurricane on global warming. They're born, as they always have been, when a tropical wave launches off the African coast and heads out into the open ocean. But when that ocean is hot - and at the moment sea surface temperatures off the Northeast are five degrees higher than normal - a storm like Sandy can lurch north longer and stronger, drawing huge quantities of moisture into its clouds, and then dumping them ashore.

Last year that dumping happened across Vermont. In some places we broke absolutely every rainfall record. It turned our streams and rivers into cataracts that took out 500 miles of state highway. A dozen towns were left completely cut off from the rest of the world, relying on helicopters to drop food. I know the odds are slim that we'll find ourselves in the bull's-eye again. But someone will.

This time the great damage may be along the coast. Even as we've built up our coastal populations, sea level has begun to climb. There are already cities along the coast that flood easily at the month's high tide. This storm may hit when the moon is full, and it may dump so much rain that the water will be coming from both directions. Or maybe across the Appalachian highlands will be where it does its biggest damage, mixing with an inland storm front to dump snow on forests still in leaf. But someplace is going to take it on the chin, maybe harder than it ever has before.

And that's the world we live in now. James Hansen, the NASA climatologist, published a paper earlier this year showing how the seemingly small one degree we've already warmed the earth has made extreme weather far more likely. The insurance industry has published a series of warnings in recent years saying the same thing. The world grows steadily more unpredictable, and hence we grow less comfortable in it.

You see the same thing on much smaller scales. In Vermont this fall we had our first deaths ever from Eastern equine encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease that the experts had predicted would come with a warming climate. They were right, and now when you go out to weed the garden, the dusk carries with it a slight whiff of apprehension it never did before.

Our relationship to the world around us is shifting as fast as that world is shifting. "Frankenstorm" is the right name for Sandy, and indeed for many other storms and droughts and heat waves now. They're stitched together from some spooky combination of the natural and the unnatural. Some state will doubtless bear the brunt of this particular monster, but it also will do its damage to everyone's state of mind.

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+48 # fredboy 2012-10-30 09:08
When facing such challenges we should always ask three questions:

1. What can we learn from this?
2. What should we learn from this?
3. What MUST we learn from this?

Think future. Plan well.

Let's also to remember to unite to help one another. That's what we do best.

Last, a final reminder: Nature bats last.
 
 
+9 # indian weaver 2012-10-30 09:38
"Nature bats last." And then nothing is left to bat at all as nature itself is incinerated, as the planet self-incinerate s, caused by the cosmic destroyer - the human. The entire universe howls in horror at what we are doing. Obama's (and dubya's) perversion of immense world power will be legendary to the only survivors - our Gods (by then our Great Mother, our beautiful planet Earth will have been incinerated to a cosmically dispersed powder).
 
 
+23 # HowardMH 2012-10-30 11:56
You think maybe, just maybe the stupid politicians will finally recognize global warming and start to actually do something about it instead of listening to Big Oil? Nah will not happen
As one Idiot Senator said how can there be global warming when we can build a snow man and igloo on the mall in Wash DC, which his kids actually did a couple years ago. However, the real problem is the millions of idiots that voted for these morons. Until food prices doubles or triples these stupid people will not get it – and by then it just might be too late to stop global warming.
As long as the oil and coal companies continue to own the politicians, nothing is going to change on Capital Hill. Until there are two hundred thousand really, really pissed off people on Capital Hill (all at the same time – with base ball bats and 2 x 4s) raising some serious hell absolutely nothing is ever, ever going to happen to these totally bought and paid for by the richest 50 people in the world that are becoming more and more powerful with each passing rigged election thanks to the stupid people.
 
 
+5 # indian weaver 2012-10-30 14:50
Yes on the current trajectory, social violence will be endemic soon, and not just in front of the White House and Congress. Once you yourself are threatened with survival, everything changes. Don't worry, you'll get there. Any man goes 3 days without food, you have a killer on your hands. Or maybe 200,000 killers as HowardMH suggests. Probably more.
 
 
+4 # mdhome 2012-10-30 16:58
And when his kids go without food for 3 days, you have one VERY pissed fellow looking for blood.
 
 
+26 # boadacia 2012-10-30 10:21
We need to start looking at things through an ecological minset. When you change one thing in an ecosystem, you jeopardize a lot. Climate change is part of what happens when one species gets out of control. But there is lots more to this story.
Check out these sites;

Call to Life
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbOXUza9ZeE

http://www.speciesalliance.org/projects.php

http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-change/
 
 
+24 # Smokey 2012-10-30 10:50
Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor.... For months, Romney and Obama have tried to dodge the climate change issue. The summer of 2012 was pure hell for much of America, with droughts, crop failures, power failures, and extreme weather events reported in many regions. Still, the two candidates didn't want to talk about the environment... At the last minute, Mother Nature hit America with a monster storm, just before Halloween and Election Day.... It's just a reminder that Mother Nature is still in charge.
The candidates can play their political games for a few weeks, but, eventually, they'll be hit very hard by reality.
 
 
+15 # Milarepa 2012-10-30 11:04
Mother Nature is mad, and getting madder. We're in for serious spankings. Might as well stand and face it!
 
 
+11 # happycamper690 2012-10-30 11:16
The business news today contains the startling and ugly observation that European trading of global insurance company stocks has pushed prices sharply higher, not, as one might expect, plummeting due to tens of billions of losses. The reason: with a major disaster people will buy more insurance and rates can be pushed substantially higher.
 
 
+15 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-10-30 11:26
We need to join McKibben , Hansen, and others in the most consequential endeavors possible to (possibly) turn this around. Meaning we have to divest our money from Big Oil, Coal and other fossil fuel Companies. An absolutely HUGE, resounding 'NO' to any and all Keystone pipelines needs to dominate all, so-called, energy-independ ence dialogue, as well. And we have to keep getting out in the streets to let the world know that we have to change our ways.
 
 
+11 # Douglas Jack 2012-10-30 11:29
On earth its about trees. North Africa's polyculture orchards were destroyed by Egyptians, Semites, Greeks & Romans 'agriculture' creating desert. Humanity's 'indigenous' (Latin = 'self-generatin g') ancestors cultivated knowledge & memory across 100's of thousands of years for Polyculture Orchard biosphere operating instructions. Hence worldwide, communities cultivated 3-D abundance capable of delivering 100 times (10,000%) more food, materials, water-cycle, energy & other essential ecological services than 2-D 'agriculture' (L 'ager' = 'field'). The height of our tallest trees at many 10s of metres as well as lower biosphere levels photosynthetica lly absorb / transform 92 - 98% of solar energy into abundance. Tree roots penetrate the earth's substrate tens of metres as deep as the canopy to pump & store water, mine minerals & develop abundant carbon-nitrogen nutrient colonies. Energy 'cold' spots on the face of the continent attract warm-moisture laden winds from the ocean to the continent. 2-D agriculture & human economies of interaction flatten biosphere so relatively barren earth reflects 92 - 98% of solar energy back into the atmosphere / troposphere pushing winds from the continent to the sea causing desertification . North Africa once was a lush orchard. Basic climate wind - weather generation patterns / meteorology climate changes are biosphere based. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/design/1-indigenous-welcome-orchard-food-production-efficiencies
 
 
-15 # Abigail 2012-10-30 11:33
How to make a mountain out of a molehill- see all the messages above. Where were you in 1938 or 39 when a real great hurricane hit the Boston are? My dad was in New York, supposed to come home that day. We lived in a suburb of Boston, where there WERE big trees. They went down on houses' roofs, my neighbors car (there weren't many cars then, it was still during the great depression although Roosevelt was doing his best to get us out) We had no electricity, the heating oil ran out, and my brother and I played on and climbed dead trees. We ate sparingly of what little food we had, and we kids were happy there was no school. The storm we had yesterday was just that- a storm. Count your blessings- it could have been snow.
 
 
+12 # Regina 2012-10-30 13:25
Abigail: I well recall the hurricane of 1938, in NY, on an evening when I had a theater ticket. I made it there, and got home afterward; it was no problem for the subway, a little wet and blowy for the walk between the subway and home. It might have been a little worse in the Boston area. In humongous contrast, Sandy is millions of times worse in severity and disruption and the total area affected. Look beyond your childhood home; read the maps as well as the reports.
 
 
+3 # dick 2012-10-30 11:38
Virtually NO discussion of climate change in TV debates between Bush Lite & Cheney Lite.
 
 
+6 # mdhome 2012-10-30 17:04
If you can't see the difference you are a low-informed citizen.
 
 
+11 # mdhome 2012-10-30 11:45
It is difficult to understand how some people (even ones in congress who are making the laws and regulations we will live with) can ignore the frankenstorms that we will be seeing in the future, droughts, and heatwaves like never seen before. The need to do something is now before it becomes too late. We (I) grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation, and now we see the results of careless use of resources that could be as big a danger.
 
 
+16 # Regina 2012-10-30 11:45
There is nothing "unnatural" about Sandy. It may well be the new Nature, spawned by our addiction to carbon-generati ng pollution of our once-pristine atmosphere and oceans. The rah-rah incantations of the fossil fuel industry are rot -- coal is NOT clean, and CO2 is not benign just because it's "natural." The prevailing ignorance of science on the part of Americans is an indictment of our education system -- the US lands well down on the achievement list for every international exam. With the national addiction to entertainment and the prevailing closely literal reading of religion, the public at large is easily swayed against scientific evidence by the cheer-leader purveyors of fossil fuels.
 
 
+11 # seeuingoa 2012-10-30 12:54
"The monster storm of our lifetime"

quote from meterologist about Sandy.

Easy Easy!

Just wait till 2013, 2014, 2015.....
 
 
+5 # skywatcher 2012-10-30 13:00
Actually, there Is indeed much that's unnatural about Sandy. 'Climate change' makes much more sense once you've awakened to the fact that geoengineering is happening every day (whether your area is being sprayed with aluminum, barium, strontium and other chemicals on a particular day or not).

Remember reports of the Chinese successfully dispersing clouds in advance of the 2008 Olympics? That is child's play compared to what is happening in the U.S. and, apparently, most NATO countries, every day. But the silent MSM and most of us would prefer to buy the lie that we only see (intermittently , have you ever noticed?) normal 'contrails' in our skies. Curious that these alternate with completely clear skies with no contrails, only to have them painted with sprays time and again. (No, for at least 16 years, this isn't the sky of your childhood, when we also had jets that made real contrails, the kind that disperse within ca. 20 seconds, because they are water mist.)

Watch "Why in the World Are They Spraying?" on youtube and spread the word. It's our best chance to address climate change head on--not to mention layers upon layers of corruption.
 
 
0 # Billy Bob 2012-10-30 17:59
My childhood was in the early '70s and I clearly remember contrails that lasted for a long time. Maybe you're refering to our childhoods that predate jet engines.
 
 
-13 # moby doug 2012-10-30 13:55
And when a superstorm hits Minnesota, it'll be the Alfrankenstorm. Big Sandy, never more than a Cat 1 (Cat 5 is the max) was only a superstorm for the media, where it was hyped to the max. It was more about the ratings than about the wind and the rain. Now out with the old newscycle, in with the new newscycle. What will they bray about next?
 
 
+7 # Billy Bob 2012-10-30 17:57
They'll probably "bray" about the millions of people who are without power in 30-degree weather, or the tens of people who were killed, or the billions of dollars of property damage, or the further billions of dollars worth of hit it will do to our economy, or the thousands of people who are now homeless.
 
 
+2 # Glen 2012-10-31 08:16
Moby, you have a point. Certainly, Sandy generated a huge amount of water and the destruction is terrible, but where that storm hit is significant in the big picture. The U.S. and the rest of the world have had much more powerful storms. Much more powerful. There has been widespread flooding due to heavy amounts of rainfall over a short period of time, flooding major cities and towns all along the Mississippi, and so forth.

Sandy hit an already decimated island and then a heavily populated part of the U.S. As I stated in another post, folks in the area there are crammed together and the cities are much as canyons, holding water. The amount of destruction is caused by such a concentrated area of buildings.

There have been storms there that tore out all the cement along the water and the waves threw those chunks into buildings. Folks attempting to flee ran into snow, just as now.

My niece lives in New York city and says this is the third storm this year that knocked down trees in their area.

Once again, there were few articles and news programs covering many events in the U.S. that were hideously devastating, but after all - this is New York. Global warming happens only in New York.
 
 
+7 # RickR 2012-10-30 15:35
Remember that Hurricane Sandy hit hard in the Caribbean prior to moving north. At least 52 have died in Haiti from Sandy and the effects on the crops in sounthern Haiti have been catastrophic. This is piled on top of the damage caused by Tropical Storm Isaac in a country not near recovered from the earthquake of Jan 2010.
 
 
+3 # m... 2012-10-30 16:31
There is no Global Warming.
Any IDIOT knows that Global Warming is a Liberal Myth, just like the Theories of Evolution and Gravity.

Remember to vote Romney Ryan because they will put an end to Scientific Theorizing..!!!

:-D
 
 
+3 # cordleycoit 2012-10-30 17:28
our master will be quick to blame us for the high water.Cut down trees get flooding. Kill off the beach grass and the beach goes away. Put a politician in chrage and bad things happen. This is not the stuff of high intellect. These are things we all know so why don't we do something. It's like the unions forbidding the local from clearing the tress of the state roads on Martha's Vineyard. It's like denial of disaster. Bill do you understand Some Time a Great Notation? Crush the people lomng enough and they don't care anymore or is it Never More,
 
 
+2 # cordleycoit 2012-10-31 08:04
In the West we see drought then high winds and firestorms. Our pols have nothing to say their lips are sealed after kissing the corporate butt. There is no climate change allowed in their corrupt universe. The rest of us get to pay for our politicians for browning of their noses.
 
 
0 # Kathymoi 2012-10-31 17:17
We now have the right word to connect the dots: systemic cause. Global warming does not cause hurricanes and tornadoes or fires or floods. However, global warming is the systemic cause of increased frequency and increased severity of these phenomena. It's time for global scientists to adopt the word and use it repeatedly, loudly and systematically. Carbon emissions are systemically causing global warming. The fossil fuel industry emits huge amounts of fossil fuel. Let's get the systemic cause and responsibility articulated, spoken, and repeated until there is no question, no doubt, no one left wondering.
 

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