Since I hope that I may be reading some of those posts in a few years time, I better start by stating the obvious: Irene is the first hurricane of the 2011 season and may barely make it all the way to New York without being downgraded to a tropical storm. (The threshold is 75mph somewhere in the storm – which will be on the eastern side of a north-moving storm, over the sea and not in the city … and in fact it has now more-or-less been downgraded during the time it took to write this post. No hurricane force winds could be detected anywhere on land or near the shore.)
It is not the first. Although it is unusually weak, compared to those other five. The media frenzy is mostly a product of ignorance, as all the other Hurricanes have faded from living memory. There has only been a single Hurricane that reached New York in the 20th century, but there had been four in the 19th century.
CNN, meanwhile, has turned into the Comedy News Network – with reporters holding up twigs and small branches of trees, warning that those are dangerous projectiles and pointing at small puddles of water as evidence of flooding. Oh, give me a break.
Of course, people are looking for signs of climate change and catastrophic conditions in the future in this hurricane, unavoidably among them: Germany’s climate-ideologist-in-chief Mojib Latif. But a mere glance at the New York history of the 19th century (when climate was supposedly “normal”) proves just how silly those people have become these days, their academic titles notwithstanding.
What we do see time and again, most glaringly in the USA, is ignorance of history. I single out the USA, because it is capable of preparation but doesn’t. There is little point in blaming the ineffectual Somali government for the recurring famines – because it barely has the means to prevent it. The USA does.
Imagine Irene had been one of those 19th century hurricanes – a solid cat. 3, instead of barely cat. 1 storm. With storm surges of 20 feet, instead of 10 feet. Well, one thing is for sure, the media frenzy would not have been worse, because a day only has 24 hours for reporting. New York has already been reduced to evacuation as its primary action, as it has nothing to put against any storm surge, even of the weakest of Hurricanes.
On the other hand, the mandatory evacuations themselves are in many cases far over the top. Officials like Major Bloomberg don’t trust citizens to judge for themselves whether they are safe or not. Should one of those Cat.3 storms truly reach New York in a few years, a lot of people will refuse to evacuate, because of today’s overreaction. Because it’s not a matter of life and death, except for a few isolated places where people know themselves what is going to happen during such a storm.
I would be very surprised if there was any move in New York now, to spend a trifling amount of money – no more than a few billion dollars – to make sure the city can withstand any of the Hurricanes it has experienced so far without massive damage (estimated to be on the order of $50bn for a cat. 3 hurricane).
Basically, it’s another Katrina waiting to happen some time in the next couple of decades, because just as New Orleans, New York won’t dodge a major hurricane when it comes along.
But that seems to be the American mentality. When bad things happen, let them happen. Unless it is very regular, localized and extremely damaging, nobody prepares for anything. California earthquakes: yes. New Madrid type earthquakes: no. Florida Hurricanes: Yes. New York or New Orleans Hurricanes: No.
Tornado preparation – beyond warnings – is almost an anathema. Why have trailer parks not been banned in Tornado Alley? Why are there no building codes to deal with tornado damage? Reinforced concrete buildings have proven to resist anything including F5 tornadoes.
Periods of droughts and heat waves are nothing new. The 1930ies saw the dust bowl. The all-time temperature records of 25 out of 50 US states have been set in the 1930ies. Nobody is preparing for the recurrence of such a devastating period.
I’m not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Simply to have a look at the history books and see what nature holds in store. Forget about climate change, trust the history books. Those have stories to tell that are much worse than anything that Latif or Al Gore have been talking about.
I’ve once been in a small town on a river in Germany that had a big wall against the regular floods from the river. Behind it stood a pillar with marks of previous high-water marks. It was higher than the wall. The top-most marks being the oldest, going back all the way to the 14th century. Not even they are truly prepared for what history holds in store. Some of the worst recorded European storms date back to the 13th century – a time when the Netherlands weren’t known for reclaiming land from the sea … because that was when most of this land had not yet been flooded in the first place.
American history barely exists. Nobody knows what nature holds in store for the American people. But they don’t even prepare for what they already know what can happen, and even those events are these days being blamed on climate change.
So please do me a favor and take at least the history you have seriously. – And that’s true for all places of the world. There have been times in the 10th century and then a stretch of 130 years starting in 1007, when Baghdad regularly experienced freezing winters. So regular in fact, that at some point they simply stopped writing it down in the chronicles after a few decades, because cold temperatures and snow in winter had become perfectly unremarkable weather. At the same time, Europe – including Iceland and Greenland – experienced very mild weather. All of which reversed after over a century.