“We don’t have many modern precedents for what the models are suggesting,” ~NOAA
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There’s a monster forming off the East Coast. It comes in the form of a late season hurricane, Sandy, the 19th of 20 storms so far this season. It comes in the form of an Atlantic Ocean abnormally hot for this time of year, hot enough to fuel this unseasonably powerful storm. And it comes in the form of a second strong storm, this one born of the Arctic, sweeping down from the north.
The concern? That these three weather phenomena — an Atlantic Ocean heated 5 degrees above average by human caused global warming, a powerful hurricane fueled by that same warming, and a winter storm intensified by growing extremes in temperature differences could all combine into a storm worse than the so-called ‘Perfect Storm’ that harried the Northeast and ravaged shipping lanes back in 1991.
The timing of the possible conjunction of these storm occurs this weekend and extends into the middle of next week. Uncomfortably close to election day. Which begs the question — was it so wise for Mitt Romney and Republicans to deny climate change? And was it a good choice for Obama to decide not to publicly press the issue during the debates? Yes, the oil companies are rich and powerful and spend lots of money in an all-too-human attempt to morph public opinion to their ‘special,’ and increasingly damaging, interests. But what about Mother Nature? What about her say in all this heat-causing carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere? Never a good bet to ignore her.
As Brad Johnson over at ClimateSilence.org noted: “Sandy is yet another reminder that the candidates should stop competing over who can poison the weather faster with increased oil, gas and coal production.” Of course, Brad did fail to mention that under President Obama, alternative energy production has doubled, Obama set CAFE standards to increase to 55 mpg, and that he has been the strongest Presidential advocate yet for policies that reduce the impact of climate change. All that said, publicly competing over who would increase fossil fuel production the most certainly did not send the right message.
And the forecast is for something very close to Brad’s version of ‘poisoned weather.’
Here is the current satellite view of Sandy. It shows a massive storm currently located over the southern Bahamas. Its maximum sustained winds are now 105 miles per hour and it is strengthening over the hot waters of the Gulf Stream. Sandy is powerful enough to lash central Florida with rain bands and gusty winds from more than 400 miles away. If you look at the massive and extensive structure of Sandy, you will see that its feeder bands stretch as far south as South America and about 800 miles northeast into the Atlantic.
This is a massive, massive storm. And it is poised to combine with a powerful winter storm sweeping down from Canada and grow even larger. The merging of these storms is expected to inject energy into Sandy, spreading out its tropical storm wind field over a radius of 300 miles. This is expected to push a powerful storm surge over the mid Atlantic and Northeast coastlines starting this weekend and extending into mid-week. This event coincides with full moon high tides and, according to Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground, could be a 1 billion dollar storm.
Somewhat troubling is the fact that the most reliable models are predicting Sandy could make landfall in Delaware with a 940 mb central pressure. This is an extraordinarily low pressure for a storm so far north. Jeff Masters, however, doesn’t believe that particular prediction will bear out. He still expects an immensely powerful storm, just not quite that powerful. Comparisons have been made between this storm and the ‘Perfect Storm’ of 1991. That said, this particular storm combination may be even stronger than the one that formed in 1991. Furthermore, it is moving along a path that makes it much more likely to directly impact the US East Coast.
So the Perfect Storm appears to have been just a prelude to increasingly dangerous weather, growing worse and worse as more and more greenhouse gasses are pumped out.