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Nov. 01, 2012

Sandy: Katrina Redux

by Ira Flatow

Click to enlarge images
Still waiting for power to come on, having returned on one of the first flights to land at the post-submerged JFK, and planning the intricacies of travelling around Manhattan, I've been an eyewitness to a small sliver of the total devastation wrought by Sandy. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and property to this mammoth storm.
 
At the same time, as an eyewitness to history, there is a part of me that looks at the stacks of research papers and warnings that foretold the probability of New Orleans being flooded by Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, or consequences of rising sea levels on New York, Boston, Miami, and other major seaports around the country and says that none of these rages of Mother Nature should come as a surprise -- if you're listening. 
 
Scientists had been predicting for many years the perfect storm that could overflow the levees, fill the "bowl" that is New Orleans and wipe out that city. And they've been saying that rising ocean levels due to warming ocean waters and melting land bound glaciers would raise sea levels in coastal cities around the world 8-10 feet by the end of the century. And how would they first be manifest? In the flooding of coastal areas (see New Jersey) and subway tunnels during a powerful storm or hurricane. The first tangible "symptoms" of a climate that is changing. 
 
Some people have been listening. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on WCBS radio that in coversation with President Obama he noted jokingly "we have a 100-year flood every two years." Cuomo has been one of the first and few politicians to recognize the symptoms of a problem and agree that it's time to take action. "It’s undeniable that we have a higher frequency of these extreme weather situations, and we’re going to have to deal with it.”
 
Are Katrina and Sandy linked to climate change? The point is debatable, with global warming purists pointing out that no one event can make the case. But eventually when enough dots get added to the puzzle and are connected the picture will become much clearer. 
About Ira Flatow

Ira is the host and executive producer of Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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