Thursday, 21 February 2013

Ask Marylin about "Superstorm" Sandy - she knows!

By accident, I discovered an amazing piece on Parade magazine, of all places, in the Ask Marylin column written by Marylin vos Savant. Most readers' questions are of the "Should My Daughter Attend Her Prom or a Family Wedding?" variety. A reader asks her
Marilyn: Was superstorm Sandy so bad because of global warming?
she answers
In this case several factors not directly related to climate change converged to generate the event. On Sandy’s way north, it ran into a vast high-pressure system over Canada, which prevented it from continuing in that direction, as hurricanes normally do, and forced it to turn west. Then, because it traveled about 300 miles over open water before making landfall, it piled up an unusually large storm surge. An infrequent jet-stream reversal helped maintain and fuel the storm. As if all that weren’t bad enough, a full moon was occurring, so the moon, the earth, and the sun were in a straight line, increasing the moon’s and sun’s gravitational effects on the tides, thus lifting the high tide even higher. Add to this that the wind and water, though not quite at hurricane levels, struck an area rarely hit by storms of this magnitude so the structures were more vulnerable and a disaster occurred. One way global warming may have contributed is that the area’s sea level is somewhat higher than it was a century ago. A bit of good luck: Tides would have been even higher if the moon had been closer to us. Instead, it was just a few days from apogee, the point in its orbit where it’s farthest away.
Wow - just WOW! Later, another reader, clearly an alarmist (from Boulder, Colorado - not much threat from sea-level rise there), sticks his size-twelve boot in - check her response this time
Marilyn: While your comments about Sandy were informative, they didn't include the most significant link between the storm and global warming. (January 20, 2013) Sandy was the largest storm ever to make landfall in the U.S. in terms of size (1,000 miles in diameter) and total energy. The enormity of both measures was generated by a rise in sea surface temperatures, about 5 degrees F above normal over much of Sandy?s route. Sea level rise over the last century (about a foot) contributed to the storm's damage; by the year 2100, the sea level rise at New York City is forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to be more than three feet. Our little blue ball is heating up; the consequences will be unpleasant.
Marilyn responds:
Thank you, Donald. I did mention the sea level rise, but I considered the warmer-than-average coastal waters to be a weather condition, not a global warming condition.
Full marks Marylin! I'll be emailing Marylin to congratulate her on her original concise and factually accurate answer, and her polite put-down on the supplementary question. I'll also ask her if she has a view on climate sensitivity, and if she knows anything of the role of cosmic rays in cloud formation - well, you never know, do you?

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