Monday, August 5, 2013

Hurricanes and climate change: huge dangers, huge unknowns

A  few snips from an informative piece by Dr. Jeff Masters in his blog at Wunderground: Hurricane Sandy's enormous $65 billion price tag put that great storm in third place for the most expensive weather-related disaster in U.S. (and world) history. Indeed, when we look at the list of most expensive U.S. weather-related disasters since 1980, hurricanes dominate, claiming six of the top ten spots. Drought is also a formidable presence, accounting for three of the other top-ten budget-busting disasters. Thus, a critical question for society is: how will our dangerous uncontrolled experiment of dumping massive amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air affect droughts and hurricanes?

...Keep in mind that hurricane damages are currently doubling every ten years without the effect of climate change, according to Pielke et al., 2008. This is primarily due to the increasing population along the coast and increased wealth of the population. The authors theorize that the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a Category 4 monster that made a direct hit on Miami Beach, would have caused about $150 billion in damage had it hit in 2005. Thus, by 2015, the same hurricane would do $300 billion in damage, and $600 billion by 2025. This is without considering the impact that accelerating sea level rise will have on storm surge damages.

...It is essential that we limit coastal development in vulnerable coastal areas, particularly along barrier islands, to reduce some of the astronomical price tags hurricanes are going to be causing in the future. Adoption and enforcement of strict building standards is also a must, as well as more reforms to the government's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which subsidizes development in high-risk coastal regions that private insurers won't touch. NFIP is now $25 - 30 billion in the red, thanks to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Reform of NFIP is already underway. In 2012, before Sandy hit, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which requires people with NFIP policies to pay large premium increases of about 25% per year over the next five years. Naturally, this move has caused major controversy.....

A 2010 hurricane off the coast of Florida, via NASA (hurricane's name not given)

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