ocean’s fury

detail of Jamie Hogan illustration for A Warmer World by Caroline Arnold

When crossing the ocean by ferry this morning to Portland, islanders were talking about how COLD it’s getting. Have we not noticed it’s November already? I’ve got geraniums still in bloom in our window boxes! Something’s not right. Almost a year ago, Superstorm Sandy came and went. Briefly, the topic of climate change came ashore, but any  political action was swept away by other distractions. Now we face the aftermath of another superstorm, Typhoon Haiyan, in the Phillipines. Another summit on climate change will take place in Warsaw next week. If you’d like to raise your voice, you can sign a petition to the UN here.

Local teen forecaster, Jack Sillin, has this to say:

Climate change is affecting our weather in 2 main ways. First, there’s the fact that the ocean contains vast amounts of energy, energy that did not exist say 100 years ago. The other main problem is these storms cause much more damage due to increasing sea levels and an increasing coastal population, with more valuable coastal real estate bumping up against where some of the most formidable storms can be found.

The ocean is warming. There is no denying it. The question is, what effect does this have on our weather? My answer is simple- our weather is becoming more volatile. As the oceans warm, the amount of energy available to developing storms is greatly increased. As demonstrated perfectly by Superstorm Sandy, powerful warm core systems can sustain their energy until the point where a merger with a cold core system becomes fatal. Did a Sandy like event occur in the 1700 and 1800’s? No. There was not enough energy in the water to sustain a storm like Sandy beyond Cape Hatteras. If a storm like Sandy was recreated with the one variable changed being the sea temperature, the storm would likely fizzle out before being capable of merging with the cold core systems.

The second thing of concern is sea level rise. Many of our major cities like New York and Boston are at or just barely above sea level, cities that sit in the path of powerful storms like Sandy as well as Nor’easters that have the capability to bring devastating surges. These surges, even if remaining of the same caliber, would cause more damage to coastal cities due to the fact that coastal infrastructure is increasing in both size (quantity) and value. The problem is compounded by the fact that the storms’ intensity, and the resulting surges, are becoming more powerful.

Weather is becoming much more volatile. A perfect storm of increased sea surface temperatures, higher sea levels, and increasing coastal real estate and  infrastructure is causing and will continue to cause major problems around the world. The next question is “what do we do about it?”

Thanks, Forecaster Jack, for sharing your views.

We can all start by contacting our legislators. The cycles set in motion by the ocean’s fury are beyond personal actions of recycling or conservation of energy. We need global action to face the repeating surges of climate change. Learn more about what you can do at 35o. org. As Bill McKibben, founder of the organization says, “there are no backyards.” Volatile weather will find us, one way or another.



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