Tag Archives: Hurricane SANDY

IT’S BEEN NINE YEARS

It’s been almost nine years since Florida got hit by a hurricane. In fact during the 2004 and 2005 Atlantic hurricane seasons Florida got hit seven times by tropical cyclones including infamous KATRINA before it continued on its way to cause a major disaster in New Orleans and other places in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Florida also got hit by WILMA, after it had pounded the Yucatan Peninsula causing extensive damage in Cancun and the Maya Riviera, which wasn’t a major storm when it traversed South Florida from west to east generating $21.0 billion in damage.

Yes we have been lucky here in Florida for the past nine years, but have we really? In 2012 we got a taste of what a large storm can do, even when it passes at considerable distance from our shores, when SANDY caused  more than $100 million in damage in Florida. So not having a direct hit by a land-falling hurricane does not mean Florida can not be damaged by a tropical cyclone. Also, during this  relatively long period of calm the population of Florida has grown by more than 2.0 million, with most of that growth taking place in the coastal region, which is the most vulnerable to the   impact of hurricanes.

In reality, during this period of exemption from tropical cyclone impacts, the vulnerability of Florida has grown significantly in terms of population and urban development, which means there are many more and there is much more at risk today than when WILMA hit Florida in 2005. Also, the level of the sea has risen some more over the past ten years, which means that next storm surge generated by an approaching future hurricane will be higher, will travel faster and it will also have higher waves riding above it as it comes on shore. In  summary the next impact will be far more damaging that one caused by a hurricane of the same category ten years ago.

Super typhoon VONGFONG as seen from space (courtesy of NASA)  this Friday 10 October 2014
Super typhoon VONGFONG as seen from space (courtesy of NASA) this Friday 10 October 2014

To remind us of the power of tropical cyclones, super typhoon VONGFONG is approaching Okinawa, Japan today as a rather large system where hurricane strength winds are being felt almost 500 kilometers from the eye of the storm.

Projected track for super typhoon VONGFONG as it approaches Japan [Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory]
Projected track for super typhoon VONGFONG as it approaches Japan [Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory]

Another reminder closer to our neck-of-the-woods is a tropical depression bordering on tropical storm strength that is in the central Atlantic moving toward the northwest north of Puerto Rico today. While farther to the east a strong tropical wave west of the Cape Verde Islands rides along ‘hurricane alley’.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image [NOAA} of 10 October 2014 showing what could be the seventh-named tropical cyclone of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season moving between Puerto Rico and Bermuda followed by a large tropcal wave west of the Cape Verde islands
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image [NOAA} of 10 October 2014 showing what could be the seventh-named tropical cyclone of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season moving between Puerto Rico and Bermuda followed by a large tropical wave west of the Cape Verde islands

The truth is, the historical record, going back more than 162 years, shows Florida has been the most hurricane-vulnerable state in the country during this long period of time. Consequently all interests in Florida must be prepared, remain alert, and keep practicing MITIGATION!


UPDATE AS OF 11  OCTOBER 2014 AT 10:00 A.M.

Visible light satellite image (NASA) of 11 October 2014 showing Tropical Storm FAY, the sixth-named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season
Visible light satellite image (NASA) of 11 October 2014 showing Tropical Storm FAY, the sixth-named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season
Projected track for Tropical Storm FAY as of 11 October 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)
Projected track for Tropical Storm FAY as of 11 October 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory based on NOAA data)

Cyclonic activity in the North Atlantic basin is stirring, perhaps reacting to comments posted here on MITIGAT (ha, ha) or simply because Mother Nature will do what it does; the tropical depression in the central Atlantic has strengthened to become Tropical Storm FAY, the sixth-named tropical cyclone of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. now aiming toward Bermuda.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 11 October 2014 showing Tropical Storm FAY and two tropical waves riding along 'hurricane alley'
Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) of 11 October 2014 showing Tropical Storm FAY and two tropical waves riding along ‘hurricane alley’

This morning we also see two tropical waves riding the northern edge of ‘hurricane alley’, including a rather large and strong disturbance west of the Cape Verde islands. So there is plenty of fuel in the system in this later stage of the season warranting a reminder: Stay alert, be prepared, MITIGATE! Keep in mind, it only takes one hit to make it a bad day!

Satellite image (NASA) of 11 October 2014 of super-typhoon as it hits Okinawa VONGFONG
Satellite image (NASA) of 11 October 2014 of super-typhoon as it hits Okinawa VONGFONG
Latest projected track for super-typhoon VONGFONG as of 11 October 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory)
Latest projected track for super-typhoon VONGFONG as of 11 October 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory)

Elsewhere super-typhoon VONGFONG has weakened somewhat during the night, but remains a rather large and dangerous storm barreling over Okinawa as it turns toward the north and then the northeast over Japan’s major islands. VONGFONG is so large that it  is already affecting weather patterns over the  U.S.A. and Canada as it interacts with the jet stream of its north.

Projected track for Cyclone HUDHUD as of 11 October 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory) as it aims for the coast of India
Projected track for Cyclone HUDHUD as of 11 October 2014 (courtesy of the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory) as it aims for the coast of India

Over the Indian ocean in the Bay of Bengal tropical cyclone HUDHUD is strengthening somewhat as it moves toward the northeastern coast of India.

Sea Level Rise: Can We Keep the Sea Away?

Most every year from around mid-September through mid-November a combination of natural factors contributes to the generation of higher than usual high tides. Around October 15-18 of 2012 the combined gravitational pulls of the moon and the sun resulted in unusually high tides in southeast Florida that were close to one foot higher than the average high tide seen previously in 2012.  Many streets in tourist areas such as South beach in Miami Beach, or Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Board Walk in Hollywood Beach were flooded with 6″ to 8″ during high tide.

While the occurrence of higher than usual high tides is expected during this time of the year, it has become clear to most of the residents of these coastal regions that not only are we seeing much higher high tides than ever before, but the instances of unusually high tides and annual street flooding have become more frequent than ever before.

These street flooding events in Southeast Florida and the ever higher high tides have sparked comments about the reality of climate change, global warming and sea level rise, as well as questions of what future sea level rise may mean for low laying, vulnerable coastal regions in Southeast Florida and elsewhere.

Coincidentally just a few days after witnessing  those instances of extreme high tides and localized street flooding along the coastal region, a minimal intensity, but rather large tropical cyclone Sandy passed some 250-300 miles away on its way toward the New York/New Jersey shores, generating enough of a storm surge along Southeast Florida shores to create street flooding, sand over-wash, beach erosion and actual damage to streets and coastal infrastructure. This, plus the devastation Sandy caused in New Jersey and New York, again generated a clamor of comments and questions about sea level rise and climate change and what it all means for the future of our vulnerable communities in the coastal regions of the Sunshine State.

What makes all of this so interesting to me personally, beyond my research work and current involvement with the National Climate Assessment and various initiatives of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies (CES) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU), the Florida Climate Institute and other similar efforts, is the fact that prior to the events described I had received an invitation from the St. Gregory  Episcopal Church in Boca Raton, Florida to be one of the featured speakers at their Speaker Forum Lecture Series to address a topic related to our regional environment. As it happens, I have accepted the invitation and chose the topic of Sea Level Rise: Can we keep the sea away? thinking that it is a rather timely subject of discussion, and  one that should generate quite a bit of interest among residents of Southeast Florida.

Following below is a flyer that has been sent out by the organizers of this lecture event, which will take place on Monday, 4 March 2013 at 7:00 p.m.

March 4, Lecture 2013 - letter size

March 4, Lecture 2013 – letter size