Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sandy will be the new normal

By Dr. Jeff Masters
Published: 2:57 PM GMT on November 07, 2012

Winter Storm Warnings are up for Southwest New Jersey, Northern Delaware, and Southeast Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, PA, where Winter Storm Athena is expected to drop 3 - 5" of snow today through Thursday morning. Slushy accumulations of up to 1" are likely in Baltimore, and non-accumulating snow will fall as far south as Washington, DC. Athena, the season's first Nor'easter and first winter storm to get a name under The Weather Channel's new naming system, is spreading rain and high winds into Southern New Jersey and Eastern Long Island, NY this morning. Winds at buoy 44025, about 40 miles offshore from the coast of Central New Jersey, reached 40 mph, gusting to 49 mph, with a significant wave height of 14', at noon EST. Winds at Nantucket, MA have gusted as high as 54 mph this morning. Athena is building a storm surge that has already reached 2.2' at Atlantic City and 1.8' at New York City as of noon EST. A storm surge of 2 - 3.5' is likely along the section of coast most heavily damaged by Sandy's storm surge, and battering waves up to 20' high will cause moderate beach erosion along much of the New Jersey and New York shoreline. The storm surge will cause minor to moderate flooding during this afternoon's high tide cycle near 1 pm EST, and again at the next high tide, near 1 am EST Thursday morning. Fortunately, the high tides this week will be some of the lowest of the month, since we are midway between the new moon and full moon. Wind gusts from Athena will likely reach 50 mph along the coasts of New Jersey and Southern Long Island, NY, and could hit 60 mph on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I expect that Athena's winds, rains, and wet, heavy snows will cause up to 50,000 new power outages today. As of early Wednesday morning, 676,000 customers were still without power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy (down from a peak of 8.5 million customers.)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg abruptly reversed course and canceled Sunday's marathon, a beloved annual race that had become a lightning rod for people frustrated by the disastrous aftermath of megastorm Sandy.

The decision on Friday came after a growing number of storm victims, some runners, and other politicians criticized Bloomberg's decision earlier in the week to go forward with the marathon, one of the world's most popular sporting events. They said the race, expected to draw more than 40,000 runners, could have diverted police and other resources from recovery efforts.

Bloomberg, hours after he repeated plans for the race to take place, issued a statement saying the event had become a "source of controversy and division" and would be scrubbed. The race will not be run again until next year, organizers said.

The decision removes what could have a been a dark spot on the mayor's legacy. Public opinion in the past few days had turned against the mayor, with growing numbers saying it was inappropriate to run the race when so many New Yorkers were suffering.

People angered by the marathon plans had set up online petitions calling for runners to boycott the 26.2-mile race, or to run backward from the starting line in protest.

The uproar grew after the New York Road Runners Club, the race organizer, set up generators in Central Park for communications and other operations. It said it had paid for those privately, not with public funds, but some complained that the equipment should have been donated to those without power, electricity or heat.
Some runners, hearing of the cancellation, expressed frustration.
"I have mixed emotions," said Christopher Miller, 34, of New Rochelle, New York, who would have been running his fourth New York City marathon. "Our hearts go out to people for their suffering, and also to the thousands who came from out of town and will leave without accomplishing what they set out to do months ago."


Another runner said the mayor should have stuck to the original decision, saying the race gives local businesses a boost and was set to raise large amounts for relief efforts.
"This was going to turn into a big recovery and healing event," said Usama Malik, 37, who works for a hedge fund. "I thought it was great that he (Bloomberg) made the decision to go on with it, to raise funds, to promote healing, and get people's minds off of everything else that's going on."
Sandy, which brought a record storm surge to coastal areas, killed at least 102 people after slamming into the U.S. Northeast on Monday. Forty-one died in New York City, about half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water.

The marathon starts in Staten Island and weaves through all five of the city's boroughs. Hundreds of thousands of people line the streets to watch the race.

Run every year since 1970, the marathon attracts professional and amateur runners, and is so popular that organizers run a lottery system to determine who can compete. The field features elite runners from around the globe, and is one of the six World Marathon Majors.

Among those who had been set to compete was Wilson Kipsang, the winner of this year's London Marathon, who had traveled 45 hours from his home in Kenya.

In announcing that the race had been called off, Bloomberg insisted it would not have diverted resources from the recovery effort. Hours earlier he had previously drawn parallels with the decision a decade ago not to cancel or postpone the marathon after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

However, he said, "we cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event - even one as meaningful as this - to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."

Mary Wittenberg, the head of the New York Road Runners Club, said that as the controversy grew, she also was concerned about the reception runners may have received along the route.

At a news conference, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said it had become clear that "something that every year brings joy and unity to this city had become divisive and painful, and this is a city that's had enough pain in the last week and I don't think we need to add more."

(Reporting by Martha Graybow, Edith Honan, Emily Flitter, Julian Linden, Michelle Nichols, Anna Louie Sussman and Phil Wahba; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Eric Walsh)

Mice and other specimens were lost when a New York lab flooded and lost power, potentially setting back crucial studies for years

As Hurricane Sandy flooded Lower Manhattan, the staff at New York University's Langone Medical Center rushed to evacuate 300 patients. At another NYU facility, the Smilow Research Building, thousands of lab mice drowned as the storm surge filled the basement with water. Many tissue samples and other specimens also were lost. "It's so horrible, you don't even want to think about it," said Michelle Krogsgaard, a cancer biologist. "All the work we did, all the time and money, we're going to have to start all over." What kinds of research were lost in the storm? Here, a brief guide:

What went wrong?

The so-called Frankenstorm knocked out power to the hospital. When the storm's record-breaking tides flooded the basement, where many of the research specimens were kept, the backup generators failed, leaving the 13-story research center in the dark. The mice were inundated. Other cells, tissues, and animals used for medical research died slowly in idle refrigerators, freezers, and incubators. Precious enzymes, antibodies, and DNA strands generated by scientists and stored at temperatures as cold as -80 degrees were also almost surely destroyed.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Frustration grew for superstorm Sandy's victims in the U.S. Northeast on Friday, many of whom were left with no power, no gasoline and little information about when their shattered lives might return to normal.

While Manhattan prepared to host the annual New York City Marathon on Sunday, acute gasoline shortages in the city's storm-battered outer boroughs and New Jersey led to long lines and short tempers.

Tankers finally began entering New York Harbor on Thursday, and a tanker carrying 2 million barrels of gasoline arrived at 2 a.m. on Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Sandy, which brought a record storm surge to coastal areas, killed at least 102 people after slamming into the U.S. Northeast on Monday. Forty-one died in New York City, about half of them in Staten Island, which was overrun by a wall of water.

Starting before dawn on Friday, long lines of cars snaked around gasoline stations around the area in scenes reminiscent of the energy shortage of the 1970s.
"The police are stopping people who are trying to cut in the line," said Steven Golub, 53, an attorney who waited in line for hours at a Manhattan gas station. "There's no gas anywhere else. There was a guy with diplomatic plates who tried to cut in the line and one of the cab drivers complained so the police actually stopped him."
Police were in place at many spots to keep the peace between furious, frustrated drivers. In one instance, a man who attempted to cut in line was charged with threatening another driver with a gun on Thursday in the borough of Queens.

"When people cut the line, people are about to stone them," said Chris Allegretta, who had stood in line for 90 minutes with a gas can at a filling station in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

Less than 40 percent of all gas stations in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey operated on Thursday because of a combination of power outages and constricted supplies after the storm devastated the energy industry's ability to move fuel into and around the New York City region.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Administrator Richard Serino planned to visit Staten Island on Friday amid angry claims by some survivors that the borough had been ignored.


President Barack Obama, locked in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, has so far received praise for his handling of storm relief. But scenes of angry storm victims could affect the U.S. political campaign with Election Day four days away.

"They forgot about us," said Theresa Connor, 42, describing her Staten Island neighborhood as having been "annihilated." "And Bloomberg said New York is fine. The marathon is on," she said, referring to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Rising seawater flooded lower Manhattan, much of which still lacked power and subway service on Friday, while midtown and uptown Manhattan were close to normal.

Fury has been escalating throughout New York at Bloomberg's decision to proceed with the marathon on Sunday, vowing the event - which attracts more than 40,000 runners - would not divert any resources storm victims.

"I just walked past four huge generators. Those could be put to use for people who need them," said Marjorie Dial, a tourist from Oregon who was shocked to see the generators in Central Park, where the marathon finishes. "What they've discovered on Staten Island should have been the tipping point - the bodies."

New York City Councilman James Oddo said on his Twitter account: "If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream."

More than 3.7 million homes and businesses along the U.S. East Coast remained without power on Friday.

Dear Friend,
Hurricane Sandy caused terrible devastation and loss. But it is also a teachable moment to educate the public about the connection between extreme weather and oceans that are warming due to fossil-fueled climate change.
But too many major news outlets and reports are still relying on hackneyed weather reporting — windblown "reporters" with microphones on beaches — rather than asking why storms are getting bigger and more dangerous.1
Hurricane Sandy was no mere natural disaster. It was a record-setting killer storm that is becoming the new normal thanks to human-caused climate change — and is a harbinger of much worse to come if we do not change course.
If we are ever to have sufficient will to attack global warming, the public needs to be let in on what many climate scientists are already saying, and the urgent need for action.
Fortunately, there are a few media outlets starting to make the connection — at least raising the question and bringing on thoughtful guests.2
But most of Big Media is relying on lowest-common-denominator weather reporting to cover record-breaking extreme weather.
We deserve better. Much better.
When it comes to confronting climate change, we have a major structural and political problem. Our broken system of campaign finance and lobbying has allowed major polluters to buy off one party and essentially scare the other. The result is gridlock, science denial, and a continuance of policies which subsidize, promote and even invest in fossil fuels for the long-term, when we should be phasing them out as fast as can — maybe faster.
We must, very soon, work to overcome the power of the fossil fuel polluters and their hold on our elected leaders to get the policies we need.
Part of that will be the media fulfilling their obligation to inform the populous in this country, and doing so in a way that is commensurate with the urgency of this crisis. We need to know the whole truth. They must start reporting it.
Thank you for taking a stand.
Michael Kieschnick, President and CEO 
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Michael Calderone, "Hurricane Sandy Cable News Coverage Avoids Talk Of Climate Change," Huffington Post, October 29, 2012
2. Stephen Lacey, "Watch: Television News Starts Covering The Link Between Climate Change And Superstorm Sandy," ThinkProgress, October 31, 2012
3. Wen Stephenson, "A Convenient Excuse," The Phoenix, October 31, 2012

Dear Friend,
Words can't do justice to the fear and peril being experienced by million of people on the East Coast right now.
For those of us who are lucky enough to be out of Sandy's path, it is difficult to know what to do with ourselves.
What we do know is that this is potentially a big moment in the movement to address global warming. There is growing evidence that storms like Sandy will be the new normal rather than a freak of nature.1
There will always be storms, but as the oceans warm and the Arctic melts, Sandy is a foreboding glimpse of the stronger storms (along with floods, draughts, wildfires, etc.) of the future.
So in between checking on your friends and loved ones if you are able to do so, looking at the latest disaster pics online, refreshing The Weather Channel home page, (or seeing if the polls have changed in Ohio,) here are three things we can all do right now:
  1. Commit to vote against anyone who denies climate science or who expresses doubt that attacking global warming is an urgent priority. The League of Conservation Voters maintains a useful scorecard of our Representatives and Senators' votes on the environment.2
  2. Donate to a local emergency shelter or to the Red Cross.
  3. Listen to Bill McKibben in conversation with Amy Goodman on Democracy Nowexplain why Sandy should be a wake-up call, and then share it widely with all your friends and family.
We wish safety and the fastest possible recovery to all on the East Coast on this scary night. Thank you for standing with us in the fight for our future.
Micheal Kieschnick, President and CEO 
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. "New Study Ties Hurricane Strength To Global Warming," Climate Central, 10-15-12. 
2. Look for vote #2 in the Senate and vote #11 in the House, to repeal the scientific finding by the EPA that greenhouse gases endanger human health and the environment, and to permanently block the EPA from reducing greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

One of the major unanswered questions about climate change is whether hurricanes have become more frequent and stronger as the world has warmed. Until now, there hasn’t been enough evidence to settle the question, but a report published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may have changed all that. Using an entirely new method of tallying hurricane power and frequency, a team of scientists say that hurricanes are, indeed, more of a danger when ocean temperatures are higher. “In particular, we estimate that Katrina-magnitude events have been twice as frequent in warm years compared with cold years," the report says.

Until now, the problem with such calculations is that until satellites came along in the 1970’s, nobody knew for sure how many hurricanes formed during a given year. That’s because some hurricanes never strike land, and unless a ship or a plane happened upon one of these storms, nobody might even know it had ever existed, and certainly not how strong it was.

The record from the '70's onward is much more complete — but since hurricane numbers wax and wane based on a natural cycle, that’s not long enough to see if there’s a warming-related pattern on top of ordinary fluctuations. Ocean temperatures fluctuate according to natural cycles as well, although studies have shown an overall increase in North Atlantic sea surface temperatures, a trend that has been linked to manmade global warming.
But Alex Grinsted of the University of Copenhagen and his colleagues came at the problem in an entirely different way. They looked not at hurricanes themselves, but at the storm surgestropical storms drive before them as they come ashore, and surges have been reliably measured by devices known as tide gauges all the way back to the 1920's.
“Using surges as an indicator,” Grinsted said in an interview, “we see an increase in all magnitudes of storms when ocean temperatures are warmer.” As ocean temperatures have risen inexorably higher in the general warming of the planet due to human greenhouse-gas emissions, the scientists concluded, hurricane numbers have moved upward as well. The implication: they’ll keep increasing along with global temperatures unless emissions are cut significantly.
There’s one obvious caveat about the new results: not every hurricane creates a storm surge, since they don’t always hit land. And not every storm surge is caused by a hurricane. “The storm surge index,” Grinsted said, “is sensitive to strong winter storms as well.” And it’s quite possible, he said, that the intensity of a given storm surge could be made greater or less by the angle at which a hurricane hits land.
Surges aren’t, in short, a perfect stand-in for hurricanes, but Grinsted said that they’re pretty good. In cases where they could do so, the team has lined up hurricane data with surge data, and, he said, “there are clear correlations. So while our paper might not explain everything, it is still useful."

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