There is a lot of great stuff being written every day. I can’t blog about it all. But I do want to highlight some themes that emerged from this week and then provide a brief summary below. This week’s theme:
Weathering the Present and the Future
- Channelnewsasia – Asia’s mega-cities badly exposed to superstorms
- National Geographic – Why New York City Is the Worst Place for a Hurricane
- Salon – New Jersey agonizes over whether to rebuild shore
- Scientific America – Civilization’s Thin Veneer: The Evacuation of Bellevue
- Scientific America – New York City Planning Ahead of Actual Adaptation
- Scientific America – Rising Sea Forces Panamanian Islanders to Move to Mainland
- Scientific America – Sandy Caused Severe Damage to U.N. Headquarters
- Slate – How to Save New York
- Torontoist – Toronto’s Winter of 2040 Should Be a Nice One
Last week the self stylized capital of the world, New York, was hit by Hurricane Sandy. National Geographic discussed why New York City is one of the worst places for a Hurricane to hit. Not only is it the densest place in North America, but its tall buildings and bridges are vulnerable to high winds, there is a lot of underground infrastructure, and the New York Bight (a “bight” is a curve or bend on an open shoreline) traps millions of gallons of water. So:
When all of this water slammed into New York’s Bight, the water got trapped where the legs of the L form. With nowhere to go, water then spilled onto the land… Waves from this excess water piled up and formed storm surges of dangerous height.
Scientific America had some excellent reporting on the storm and its aftermath. There were the small issues, like the United Nations being damaged by flooding and a storm related fire, and more serious issues, such as the need to evacuate a major hospital. Yet, the main theme emerged was how we are going to protect cities and infrastructure from similar weather events in the future?
Matthew Yglesias, writing for Slate, offered some suggestions, proposing a system of dams and flood control devices in New York that the Dutch have pioneered. Meanwhile, shoreline activists in New Jersey argue the state really only has three ways to protect the its shore from extreme weather when it rebuilds:
build more jetties and seawalls, keep beaches replenished and relocate homes and businesses.
Underlying these discussion about Sandy is the acceptance that events like this will be more common in the future as we begin to feel the effects of climate change.
For example, Scientific America reports how:
Once rare, flooding is now so menacing that the Guna have agreed to abandon ancestral lands for an area within their semi-autonomous territory on the east coast of the mainland.
The City of Toronto meanwhile received a report this week about how climate is expected to change by 2040. Torontoist summerized the following predictions from the report:
- We will have 26 fewer snow days per year, 9 fewer in December.
- There will be more rain and less snow in winter; overall precipitation will increase slightly.
- The average annual temperatures will increase by 4.4 degrees.
Finally, Asian cities are really worried about future big storms:
“These cities are undergoing very rapid expansion and they are not only exposed to sea-level rise, they are also exposed to tropical cyclones,”
To summarize, I read this week that Sandy was bad, New York is vulnerable, climate change will make flooding more common in coastal cities, and there are no easy solutions.