Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The force of nature

I woke up last night in the middle of the night and watched TV reports about New Orleans Called 'Untenable' As Levees Fail. I remembered a nice trip my husband and I took years ago and what a great time we had, the wonderful food, and the beautiful places we visited. The hotel where we stayed is now a wreck.

The rescue workers have done huge acts of valor, and I am grateful that the people in the service of our country always come through. The TV channels are continously showing rescue after rescue done by the local police and firemen, the Coast Guard, National Guard, and the Army. Don't miss Mudville Gazzette's post on NORTHCOM.

The last thing I watched was a heartbreaking interview of a man whose wife was carried by the stream in front of him and their children.

I urge all visitors to this blog to donate to the American Red Cross 1-800-HELP-NOW, and The Salvation Army 1-800-SAL-ARMY. N. Z. Bear is organizing a blogbugst tomorrow.
Update Maria sent a link to The Humane Society rescue effort.
Update 2 Babalú Blog takes the initiative:
Therefore, Babalú will not offer any new posts, any new entries, any new writing, any new content whatsoever until these relief organizations have received at least 100 donations from Babalú readers.
Foreign humanitarian aid?
(The remaining of this post might sound rather angry -- but not quite as angry as him -- so you might want to skip to my next post.)

Where is the foreign humanitarian aid, you may ask. Chrenkoff points out that about the only country offering help is Venezuela:
Chavez said fuel could be sent to the United States via a Citgo refinery that has not been affected by the hurricane. Citgo is owned by Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
Maybe we should take him up on it. If it's handled well from a PR point of view, it could be a win-win situation. There's much to be said for the positive side of having the USA receiving help, not just giving it as it always does. At the same time, if we do take up Hugo on his offer, maybe we should also not be surprised if a few Venezuelans (and Cuban medics that might come along) might want to stay after their job is done. After all, as Val points out, there's a real-estate boom in Miami from Venezuelans buying property.

Of course there's the blame game
At least Hugo has refrained (so far) from kicking the US while it's down, unlike Germany's environment minister who
hinted Tuesday that Americans were to blame for Hurricane Katrina due to the U.S. refusal to cut greenhouse gases which many experts say cause global warming.
Not to be outdone, Robert Kenney Jr. blamed the GOP.

This is a variation of Castro's 45-yr-old approach to natural disasters. All my life I've been reading reports of hurricane after hurricane having been officially blamed by Castro on the Americans, and I'm old enough that I remember people in the 1970s wondering if there was another ice age coming. Global warming hadn't even been invented yet. Fidel must have been a man ahead of his time.

Rich Lowry writes about Katrina Conceit: Global warming and Mother Nature
Has global warming increased the frequency of hurricanes? One of the nation's foremost hurricane experts, William Gray, points out that if global warming is at work, cyclones should be increasing not just in the Atlantic but elsewhere, in the West Pacific, East Pacific, and the Indian Ocean. They aren't. The number of cyclones per year worldwide fluctuates pretty steadily between 80 and 100. There's actually been a small overall decline in tropical cyclones since 1995, and Atlantic hurricanes declined from 1970 to 1994, even as the globe was heating up.

It seems that Atlantic hurricanes come in spurts, or as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts it in more technical language, "a quasi-cyclic multi-decade regime that alternates between active and quiet phases." The late 1920s through the 1960s were active; the 1970s to early 1990s quiet; and since 1995 — as anyone living in Florida or Gulfport, Miss., can tell you — seems to be another active phase.

But if hurricanes aren't more frequent, are they more powerful? Warm water fuels hurricanes, so the theory is that as the ocean's surface heats up, hurricanes will pack more punch. An article in Nature — after questionable jiggering with the historical wind data — argues that hurricanes have doubled in strength because of global warming. Climatologist Patrick Michaels counters that if hurricanes had doubled in their power it would be obvious to everyone and there would be no need to write controversial papers about it.

Indeed, if you adjust for population growth and skyrocketing property values, hurricanes don't appear to be any more destructive today. According to the work of Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado, of the top five most destructive storms this century, only one occurred after 1950 — Hurricane Andrew in 1992. An NOAA analysis says there have been fewer Category 4 storms throughout the past 35 years than would have been expected given 20th-century averages.
Maybe New Orleans will rebuild. All I know is that it's a lot more likely that New Orleans will rebuild than it is that some pseudo-environmentalists will, as Lowry said, give up their "conceit that is oddly comforting: that whatever is wrong with the world is caused by us and fixable by us. Alas, it's not so."