Summary: Another post about our FAILure to learn from experience. During the past decade scientists have given scores or hundreds of warnings that we’re not prepared for the re-occurrence of past natural events. While we bicker about the possibility of future climate change, we remains poorly prepared for normal extreme events. Articles on the FM website have discussed solar storms, mega-tsunamis, and massive volcanoes. Today we look at the latest warming: about storms. The past has brought storms far larger than anything we’ve seen in the modern era. Let’s prepare for their return. Katrina and Sandy were warnings we have FAILed to head.
“Heightened hurricane surge risk in northwest Florida revealed from
climatological-hydrodynamic modeling and paleorecord reconstruction.”
By Ning Lin et al in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 27 July 2014.
Excerpt (citations omited; red emphasis added)
Storm surges and associated waves are responsible for much of the tropical cyclone (TC)-related deaths and damage. Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killed more than 6000 people in that country alone, largely due to its storm surge. Storm surge was also a major cause of the over 138,000 fatalities during Cyclone Nargis (2008), the worst natural disaster in Myanmar’s history.
Recent U.S. TC surge events include Hurricane Katrina of 2005 in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused over 1800 fatalities and more than $80 billion in damage, and Hurricane Sandy of 2012 on the Northeastern Seaboard, which caused over 70 fatalities and more than $65 billion in damage. As the most fatal and destructive aspect of TCs, storm surges exact a heavy toll on society. Moreover, coastal populations and sea levels are both rising — a combination that ensures that coastal communities will become increasingly vulnerable to storm surges, which themselves may also intensify under the changing climate. Mitigation of future TC surge disasters requires us to understand the risk — the scale and probability of TC inundation events.
The main obstacle to assessing the risk is the shortness of the historical/instrumental TC record (over a few decades up to a couple hundred years). As a way to extend the hurricane/typhoon records to prehistory, paleohurricane research has emerged as a promising tool for reconstructing long-term TC activity. Identifying and dating TC-related deposits in coastal environments makes it possible to estimate the frequencies of intense TCs at a site and determine how they may have evolved over thousands of years. Such records also provide unprecedented access to natural evidence on hurricane-climate relationships.
… We demonstrate this approach of combining climatological-hydrodynamic modeling and historical and prehistorical records to study surge risk by applying it to the Apalachee Bay area on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Storms, then and now.
… the storm model was constructed using observations from only the last two decades of the twentieth century (1981–2000), which may have been unusually favorable for North Atlantic hurricane activity compared to the previous decade.
… The preservation of these event beds with significantly more coarse material than any of the recent beds suggests more intense hurricanes producing higher levels of surge than those documented historically. …
Understanding the frequency of hurricane-generated storm surges is a necessary step toward interpreting sediment-based records of hurricane activity and variability as well as quantifying the risk that these events pose to coastal communities. The climatological-hydrodynamic method presented here relates the frequency of surges to their magnitude and provides an estimation of surge flooding risk for Apalachee Bay.
The 100 year, 500 year, and “worst case” events are estimated to be about 6.3 meters, 8.3 m, and 11.3 m, respectively, at Bald Point and about 7.4 m, 9.7 m, and 13.3 m, respectively, at St. Mark.
Both the climatological-hydrodynamic modeling and the overwash-deposit-based long-term reconstructions indicate that Apalachee Bay is far more susceptible to TC surge than historically observed. The mean return period of the extreme events with estimated surge levels above 5 meters is about 40 years in both climatological-hydrodynamic modeling and the geological record, whereas it is about 400 years according to the historical storm database. Thus, due to its limitation and biases, relying on the historical storm record may greatly underestimate the risk of extremes for Apalachee Bay and, likely, for other coastal areas.
… Statistically significant clustering of large event beds in the Mullet Pond record suggests that changes in global or regional climatic boundary conditions likely played an important role in driving the temporal variation in extreme hurricane inundation over the last several millennia. Thus, significant temporal variability in the probability of extreme hurricane-induced inundation has occurred over this interval. In comparison to the last several millennia, the historical interval of the last few hundred years has been anomalously quiescent with respect to the most extreme hurricane-induced inundation event.
For more information.
One thing that has changed: “Hurricane Forecasts Have Become Much, Much Better Since Katrina“. For more about the current debate in climate science about the see “Mixing Politics and Science in Testing the Hypothesis That Greenhouse Warming Is Causing a Global Increase in Hurricane Intensity” by Judith Curry et al, Bulletin of the Am Meteorological Society, August 2006.
To learn about the political failures that created the disaster see “The Slow Drowning of New Orleans” by Michael Grunwald & Susan B. Glasser, Washington Post, Oct 2005.
Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and post your comments — because we value your participation. For more information about this vital issue see The keys to understanding climate change and My posts about climate change. Especially see these posts about climate forecasts…
- More about the forecast for flooded cities in the late 21st century.
- Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses.
- Checking up on past forecasts about climate change, a guide to the future.
- Nine years after Katrina, climate activists have earned their reward. We might pay dearly for it.
- Ten years after Katrina: let’s learn from those predictions of more & bigger hurricanes.