Home > Uncategorized > Some Talking Points on Hurricanes and Flooding

Some Talking Points on Hurricanes and Flooding

Lambertville - New Hope bridge

Lambertville – New Hope bridge

As flood-waters recede, following a long established pattern, the press seems to be reporting their wrap up stories on hurricane Irene today (e.g. AP story running in Gannett, see: Big floods renew NJ calls for better controls).

Not surprisingly, none of those stories as much as even mentions the relationship between man made global warming and extreme weather events. You know, the long running debate in the scientific community about the influence of global warming on these events.

But that is not surprising, as the press corps (and Republicans) tend to be science challenged and are always way behind the curve. Plus, media institutions are dominated by powerful corporate and governmental interests who do not want that story out there.

But despite this deep denial on the global warming issues, in NJ’s traditional pattern of lurching from drought to floods – and the repeated shore emergency declarations – the media has always included the role of over-development, sprawl, and land use and environmental protections in the flood stories.

But that hasn’t happened this time around – those issues seem to have fallen off the table.

So, before we all move on to the next disaster, I thought I’d jot down a few obvious talking points for my colleagues, who can’t seem to get on the same page:

1. The storm and the flood are NOT acts of “mother nature” or “natural”.

The storm is an example of an extreme  weather event that is made more frequent and severe by man made global warming. The flood is man made due to pervasive alteration of the natural landscape and its hydrology, inadequate infrastructure to manage impacts of this alteration, and poorly planned over-development. Flood risks are significantly man made.

[Update: 9/5/11 – Is this event an example of a synergistic or interactive effects? Global warming induced drought, wildfires, and tropical storm winds? Maybe if Texas Governor Rick Perry just prays hard enough, it will all go away:

Wind-Driven Fires Kill Woman, Child in East Texas

Authorities say the fires were propelled partly by the high winds caused by Tropical Storm Lee. Thousands of acres were burned in eastern and central parts of the state.

2. Natural systems – like forests, wetlands, stream buffers, and coastal dunes – prevent and minimize flood damage.

What is left of those natural resources MUST BE PRESERVED. [Update: 9/5/11beach replenishment story mentions dunes.]

3. NJ is the most highly developed state – more pavement, parking lots, roofs, and driveways make flooding worse.

We must STOP developing in the last remaining natural areas and instead shift all future growth into redevelopment.

4. In order to protect natural resources and re-orient development towards redevelopment, we need stronger regional planning and environmental regulation by State government.

5. Our environmental laws and government agencies are under attack by the Christie Administration.

A systematic pattern of budget cuts, deregulation, privatization, and lax enforcement are MAKING FLOODING AND OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS FAR WORSE.

Now, that wasn’t so hard guys! I mean, after repeated cycles of lurching from droughts to floods, I would assume that you’d be able to deliver these points in your sleep.

But, none of these points are even on the media, policy, or public radar screens – now why is that?

(I mean, Michele Bachmann sure got an awful lot of press for her causal theory!)

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  1. Kevin J.
    September 6th, 2011 at 13:05 | #1

    NOAA predicted a 16+ ft crest of the Delaware River in Lambertville following the hurricane. The river only crested at 12.74 ft. Is that the science you’re talking about?

  2. September 6th, 2011 at 13:21 | #2

    @Kevin J.
    Kevin – I sense more that a rational skepticism behind that question. In fact, I sense a cynical and ignorant global warming denialist. Please correct me if I a wrong.

    But, as you will note, on 8/30 I pointed out the contrast between NOAA predicted and actual flood elevations at Stockton. See: http://www.wolfenotes.com/2011/08/some-delaware-river-scenes-from-irene/

    I presume the discrepancy between projected and observed was a result of either bad data inputs or design flaws in the hydrological model.

    I think NOAA should do a forensic analysis and publicly report an explanation. If I were in charge, I would make that commitment publicly right now, if only to protect eh integrity of NOAA.

    And of course, science and modelling are iterative processes where learning takes place, you understand that, right?

    I make these observations and pose these questions in good faith – recognizing that neither science or models are perfect.

    Do you also?

  3. Keven J
    September 6th, 2011 at 14:20 | #3

    I am by nature skeptical . . . of everything. The problem with science is that it is controlled by human beings known as scientists, who are by nature human. And humans are subject to prejudices, and motivations that come into conflict with the scientific process. The theory of man caused global warming has become a religion, with true believers who are every bit as closed-minded and fanatical as those of any other global religion. I became skeptical of the science behind global warming pronouncements when I learned that the data collection stations throughout the United States (and presumably, throughout the world) were not following the prescribed protocols requiring that instruments not be placed near sources of heat (air conditioning exhausts etc.) So please don’t label people “deniers”, or “flat-earthers”, etc., just because they ask questions. Liberals tend to want to shut down debate with ridicule and labeling.

  4. September 6th, 2011 at 14:28 | #4

    @Keven J
    Kevin – as I suspected, you are a denier, not a skeptic.

    Individual scientists are disciplined and accountable to their peers under the self correcting and fraud detecting scientific process.

    That is fundamental – observation and replication are at the core of the scientific process.

    You imply fraud by flawed individual scientists – that is a familiar and totally discredited tactic.

    Then you call science a religion – more evidence of either ignorance of derangement.

    Again,another discredited tactic.

    Then, to defend this slander, you offer up the most feeble facts and counter-arguments.

    I’m all for healthy debate, but please check your sources and invest a little tie with the facts and underlying science before you try to discredit decades of the work of 98% of the world’s scientists that work in this field.

  5. September 6th, 2011 at 14:30 | #5

    @Keven J
    and then next time you try to label pejoratively (i.e “liberals tend to”), I will delete the comment so don’t waste your – or my – time.

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