Sunday, November 4, 2012

Risk Experts Say It's Not Climate Change, It's Coastal Communities. It’s been a common reaction in the days after the hurricane, or post-tropical storm, or whatever we’re calling the 1,000 mile-wide wall of wind and rain that blasted the Northeast on Monday, to blame the shocking wave of destruction on global warming.
The experts who build the sophisticated models that the insurance industry uses to assess risk, say that global warning wasn’t the first factor responsible for the damage caused by Sandy and other recent storms. Instead, it’s where we’ve built our homes. “I don’t know that we have the historical track record to say that weather has become more volatile, but as a society we’ve become more vulnerable to weather risks. There are a lot of people who live in areas that are susceptible.” “The big elephant in the room is not climate change,” said the creator of the modern catastrophe modeling industry. “It’s the increasing property values. We continue to build bigger, more expensive homes along the coast.”
In the late 80's, the U.S. had gone decades without a hurricane landing, and insurance companies were grossly underestimating the risks involved. Models showed, for instance, that if a Category 5 hurricane hit Miami, the losses would have been on the order of $60 to $70 billion. “The insurance companies thought it was $7 billion. They weren’t monitoring the trillions of dollars of property being built on the coastline.”
After Hurricane Andrew created about $21 billion in insured losses, the catastrophe modeling business took off. To understand the expected cost of a storm, and ultimately, how much property owners should pay for insurance, the modelers map tens of thousands of storms over real-life physical data. Each of the hypothetical hurricanes in the catastrophe models is unique, though some more unusual than others. In the real world, storms are unique too. Certainly, much was made of Sandy’s mix of tropical weather with blocking weather patterns from the north and west. But as a destructive force, Sandy is less unusual.
The so-called Long Island Express, a 1938 hurricane that wrecked the Northeast, racked up $35 billion in insured damages in 2012 dollars. A 1926 hurricane that leveled Miami caused insured costs of $126 billion by today’s dollars. “Sandy was unprecedented, it’s a 500-year, 1000-year event, when they focus on the meteorology. The impacts of Sandy are not unprecedented.” We can expect more terribly destructive storms - not because of global warming, but because of the concentration of population and property in harm’s way.

**Cause change and lead;
accept change and survive;
resist change and die.**
Ray Norda

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Canada - Earthquake empties famed Haida Gwaii hot springs. The famed hot springs of Haida Gwaii have gone dry, apparently a casualty of last week's major earthquake. Parks Canada officials at Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site said all four of the popular geothermal pools are empty. It's not yet known whether the source of underground hot water has been permanently cut off or whether the loss is temporary.
Hot springs are normally found near fault lines, such as the Queen Charlotte Fault, the site of Saturday's 7.7-magnitude earthquake. The springs are created when groundwater, heated by geothermal energy beneath the earth's surface, escapes to the surface through the cracks in the bedrock along a fault. The earthquake could have caused one of a number of subterranean changes that would make the hot springs go dry. These include changing the groundwater level, completely closing of the cracks the water used to reach the surface, or causing a sudden surge in water that depleted the underground reservoir for a short time. It's also possible the hot water was diverted elsewhere.
"We don't know if it's going to come back. We certainly can hope. In many hydrothermal areas, there's just a hiatus and then the hot water re-establishes itself." Dozens of aftershocks, some as strong as magnitude 6.3, followed Saturday night's earthquake 74 kilometres south-southwest of Queen Charlotte City. Either the initial quake or one of the aftershocks could have caused the hot springs to run dry. "The pools are completely dry. Normally the rock around the pools is quite warm, and was cold to touch. It was quite disturbing to go ashore to see there was no water in the pools." All are dry, which is something never seen before in the last 30 years. "(But) there are certainly stories, oral history-type stories, of the flow changing during certain periods in the past."
Park staff had been to the hot springs as recently as last Thursday, when the pools were as full and warm as usual. The springs have a full-time presence of Haida Gwaii watchmen only during the peak summer months. No other significant damage was reported from the quake. (video)

The massive earthquake coming to Istanbul will make Sandy seem like nothing - In Istanbul, politicians are in a race against time, and time is winning by about three years. The vast city is as vulnerable to earthquakes as Los Angeles, but not as prepared. Istanbul is very close to the North Anatolian Fault, which runs beneath the Marmara Sea, and whose most significant break is said to occur every 500 years. The last time the fault broke, the city was ruined. Landmarks collapsed; thousands died; and the city walls, famous for halting invasions, were useless against floodwaters. That quake, nicknamed "the Little Apocalypse," hit in 1509, 503 years ago.
Turkey's recent history is also marked by earthquakes. In 1999 almost 20,000 people died in Izmit, about 60 miles east of Istanbul. One year ago, the southeast city of Van was devastated by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake. Both events increased panic in Istanbul, and the policies of the governing Justice and Development Party -- like building codes and an earthquake tax -- were called into question because they had failed to mitigate damage in Van. Had they learned nothing?
Over 13 million people live in Istanbul (unofficial numbers are much higher), and relentless development has swelled the city far beyond its ancient walls. The new buildings are not necessarily safer. The construction process was mired by unapplied building codes, poor communication, and greed. "Land is expensive, so you build as tall as you can. Land is gold in Istanbul."

Oregon - Architect proposes 'earthquake cages'. A Portland architect has proposed a way to protect school children from earthquakes and save school districts money. Seel cages could be installed in schools to create safe zones where children would rush as a quake hit. The quake cages would cost about one-fourth as much as a seismic upgrade to a building. A 2007 state survey found that 57 percent of Oregon's more than 1,000 public schools were at risk of coming apart in a big quake.

Volcano Webcams

Hawaii - Kilauea Activity Suggests New Eruption Possible. Kilauea, including its east rift zone, has seen an increase in both swelling and number of earthquakes for about the past month.

In the East Pacific -
- Tropical depression Rosa was located about 1025 mi. [1645 km] SW of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Rosa is likely to degenerate into a remnant low early today.

Race to restore power after Sandy - Nearly a million people in New York state remain without power after Storm Sandy, as officials take emergency measures to ease fuel shortages. Photos - cleaning up after the storm.
Superstorm Sandy packed more total energy than Hurricane Katrina at landfall - Sandy's IKE ranks second among all hurricanes at landfall. (IKE is a metric that quantifies the energy of a storm based on how far out tropical-storm force winds extend from the center, known as Integrated Kinetic Energy or IKE. )
Sri Lanka - While hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc on the East Coast of the US, tropical cyclone Nilam was hitting Sri Lanka hard with torrential rains and gale-force winds, claiming lives and destroying property. Eight people were killed and more than 200,000 affected by the storm. In southern India the death toll from the cyclone rose to 20 on Friday as people started to return to their homes after the storm died down. Cyclone Nilam, packing winds with speeds of up to 65 mph, made landfall Wednesday. Crops in an extent of 76,980 hectares have been damaged in the state due to the cyclone.
India - Bangalore's tree cover affected. The garden city will now be sporting lesser numbers of trees as the rains and heavy winds due to Cyclone Nilam, that hit Chennai coast, have felled 86 trees across the city in the past two days. On Thursday itself 74 trees got uprooted.
Chennai swelters after cyclone Nilam - Two days after cyclone Nilam, the heat was back in India. The maximum temperature in Nungambakkam on Friday was 33.6C, a rise of seven degrees from the 26.8C recorded on Tuesday. The minimum temperature was also almost five degrees higher.
UNUSUAL smog brings breathing disorders in the Capital - Cyclone Nilam-induced fog to stay in city until Nov 7. The Capital witnessed yet another foggy day on Saturday as a layer of shallow fog prevailed over the city. Similar weather is expected today as well. The sometimes blinding smog - the result of a noxious cocktail of winter chill and traffic fumes - has been caused by cyclone Nilam that lashed the southern states earlier this week. Motorists are battling visibility problems.


Video - Sandstorms engulf Chinese cities.


Washington - Meteor lights up Halloween night sky. Reports of a meteor falling to Earth kept authorities across Western Washington hopping Wednesday night as scores of people reported seeing the space debris streaking to the ground. "It was a trail, bright with colors,” early Wednesday morning in the southern sky.

Alabama - A NASA search team headed out to an area northwest of Cullman to see if they could find pieces of the meteor many saw streak across the Alabama sky Tuesday.
Tennessee - Multiple meteor sightings provide October surprise. A NASA photo shows the outline of a fireball as seen from space; spotted in Tennessee Tuesday morning.

The Taurid meteors, sometimes called the "Halloween fireballs," show up each year between mid-October and mid-November, but Nov. 5 to 12 will likely be the best time to look for them this year, based on their peak of activity.