Blogathon for Pearlington

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hurricane Cycles

There's no doubt that 2005 was an unusually active hurricane season. How often, after all, do we use up the whole alphabet and beyond on hurricane names? We're now 18 days away from the one year anniversary of Katrina, and we've only gotten as far as a Chris--only three named storms so far, which wouldn't seem like a reprieve at all if we hadn't been at Harvey by this time last year.

That terrible and terribly active 2005 season sparked lots of reports that we had entered a cycle of increased hurricane activity that could last another twenty years or so. It also brought up the question of whether global warming might be responsible.

Word from the National Hurricane Center is that there is "no consensus" on the issue of global warming's contribution to increased hurricane activity and/or intensity. On the other hand, Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor, told NPR that after studying global hurricane patterns, he does see a clear correlation between warming ocean temperature and hurricane intensity.

I'm not scientist, nor do I pretend to be one on the Internet, but anyone who watches The Weather Channel can tell you that hurricanes get stronger in warmer waters. I don't know whether global warming is our culprit. I do know, however, that if Katrina was part of a pattern rather than an anomaly, we are far from prepared for future disasters. If nothing else, as a recent Pew study indicated, population growth alone in coastal areas will assure increases in damage caused by hurricanes.

We need to help storm victims recover, but we need to do more than that too. We need better plans for evacuations and for storm shelters. We need better building codes. We need to be proactive in repairing potential problems (like inadequate levees) before "the big one" hits. We need better communication and cooperation among all the various entities involved in storm preparation and recovery. In short, we need to learn our lessons from Katrina. We can't afford to be caught again and again by "the one we never thought would happen."


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