Monday, 29 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy and the new normal

As hurricane Sandy leaves a battered Haiti behind and hits the East Coast of the US, where it may collide with a winter storm and a cold front, New York, New Jersey and Maryland brace for the impact. 

Hurricane Sandy, image captured by NOAA's GOES-13 sattelite
According to an article published in the Guardian,Professor Mark Saunders from University College London believes that there are some unusual aspects to the storm. 

  • Apparently all historic storms in records going back to 1851, located well offshore at this latitude have followed the jetstream and turned North and East whereas Sandy turned northwest to strike the mid-atlantic US. 
  • Sandy's relative strength, with it's central pressure forecast to be 945-950mb, it is close to the pressure 955mb record for a hurricane in this region
I do wonder if with likely weakening of the jetstream due to loss of arctic summer sea ice will play a part in the direction of future storms. 

With the drought and flooding this year, with the extreme weather last year, I feel that we are entering the "new normal"  and that this is how things will be from here on.
  I am not saying that every year will be like this at the moment but that the frequency of these extereme weather events will increase as climate change bites and that their severity will be something which we and our children will have to adapt to, with their impacts on our food supply and our infrastructure. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Proposed Arctic drilling moratorium rejected

The European Parliament's Industry Committee has rejected a proposed moratorium on offshore drilling for Oil and Gas in the Arctic, despite a contrary vote last month by the Environment Committee.  The proposed regulation has been tansmuted into a Directive, which it will be up to member states how (and if?) they enforce.  Companies will have to show that they have adequate financial security to meet any liabilities and have to submit a  safety hazard and emergency plan to national authorities 24 weeks before commencing drilling. 

I think that this focus on "financial security" misses the point, the environment is not "repayable", damage cannot just be repaid and somehow cease to be an issue, even if the cleanup operation is "successful". 

It appears that ahead of the vote, there was intense industry lobbying, with bilateral meetings between industry and EU officials (after a stakeholder meeting) and "educational trips" to offshore platforms, which may have been genuine and necessary, but the impression is dubious. 

Meanwhile, according to Greenpeace, Exxon is emailing its 34,000 employees in the US with voter guides which give the climate change denying, fossil fuel funded, Republican party gold star rating.  As well as emailing it's retirees and contractors....

"We obviously are promoting candidates who are pro-business and candidates who recognize the importance of a viable policy on energy," "Republicans more often tend to line up on those issues than Democrats."  (Ken Cohen, Exxon vice president for Public Affairs)

The Russian Govt is also looking to "develop" its Arctic Shelf and incentivising this with tax breaks and other measures. 

As harvests fail and food prices rise, the UN forecasts a further tightening of world cereal supplies in 2012-2013. With extreme weather seeming set to become more frequent and the likely weather effects of arctic sea ice loss.  One has to question the sanity of our leaders who seem to be locked into a "growth" mentality desperately trying to restart the economy at the expense of our future. 

We need to radically rethink our priorities.