Superstorm Sandy vs. The Big Blow
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama for reelection based on Hurricane Sandy and global warming. Former Vice President Al Gore said Hurricane Sandy is a prelude of things to come.
Superstorm Sandy is not a prelude of things to come, it is a prelude to what has always been. Superstorm Sandy’s uniqueness is a freak of timing, as much as a freak of nature.
Politicians don’t understand climate. Both Gore and Bloomberg could learn a lot from a nerdy little 11-year old kid just trying to ride his bicycle home on a sunny Friday afternoon, long ago.
Climate alarmists, like Al Gore, tell us extreme weather is becoming more intense and more frequent now because of global warming.
The facts, though, do not support the declaration. Storms like Sandy periodically happen within the natural order of things and will continue to do so.
Superstorm Sandy: Not a Hurricane!
First off, contrary to what Al Gore said, the storm that came ashore in south Jersey was not a hurricane.
It was a post-tropical cyclone. That is much worse! They have two to three times more energy and extent than puny little hurricanes. As a hurricane, Sandy was only a small cat 1 with 80+ mph winds.
Superstorm Sandy, on the other hand, was a 1,000 mile wide weather colossus.
Hurricanes draw their energy from warm tropical water over oceans. Post-tropical cyclones get their energy from a collision between gigantic cold and hot air masses that generate strong temperature gradients. They dwarf hurricanes and persist hundreds of miles inland.
In Sandy’s case the cold air came from a powerful nor’easter. Hurricane Sandy was literally sucked into the nor’easter; which then greedily devoured Sandy’s warm moist air to morph into Superstorm Sandy.
The 11-year old climate nerd could educate Gore and Bloomberg about that. You see, he tried riding his bicycle home during another superstorm 50 years earlier. That one is called the Columbus Day Storm – the Big Blow!
Though wind and rain played a role, Sandy’s massive destructive power came mainly from its widespread storm surge. Record setting surges were unexpectedly high. Damage estimates caused by the surges are in the $10s of billions.
Most affected are very low-lying areas, like barrier islands and New York City. Storm surges upwards of 13 feet wiped them out with awful authority.
Half the record setting height of the ocean surges came not from the storm itself, but from ill-fated misfortune. Sandy arrived at high tide which added 4-6 feet. It also happened during a full moon which adds another foot to the tides. Unlucky, New Jersey and New York were on the wrong side of the storm. It was the worst case, nightmare scenario.
Coastal electric grids were physically damaged by surges. That brought electrical power surges inland that blew transformers up all over the place. 8.5 million people lost power. The nor’easter part created a snowstorm in the Appalachians that dropped several feet of snow.
October 12th, 1962: The Columbus Day Storm
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny Friday afternoon when I rode my bike to the store for candy. 20 minutes later when I came out, dark storm clouds had gathered. A powerful south headwind was so strong I didn’t think I’d make it home.
Like any normal 11-year old nerdy kid of that era, as soon as I made it home I immediately rushed to the barometer and tapped the glass. It dropped 2/10s of an inch to 28.8 inches! I’d never seen it that low before and it had never dropped 2/10s of an inch when I’d tapped it before, either.
I knew we were in trouble. I didn’t know why. I was scared.
Just about then, the power went off. It wasn’t restored for two weeks. It was a terrifying Friday night we spent huddle in the basement.
The Big Blow!
Like Sandy, its awful power is almost unimaginable. Most of its destructive force came from wind.
Cape Blanco, Oregon recorded 145 mph sustained winds until its anemometer broke. A local observer estimated top sustained winds at 173 mph.
175 miles north, Mt. Hebo radar station recorded 131 mph winds until the entire station was destroyed and blown to smithereens. The weather station at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon suffered the same fate after it recording gusts to 127 mph. Portland, Oregon recorded gusts to 116 mph.
Severe wind damage occurred everywhere west of the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon and Washington State… an area of 67,000 square miles!
11-15 billion board feet of timber were blown down. That is more than 3 times the amount blown down by the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. It is 5 times greater than any other storm in history.
150 miles from the storm center, 70% of 4,000 homes in Lake Oswego were damaged or destroyed.
Its 1,000 mile swath of destruction forced cancellation of the 1st game of the 1962 World Series in San Francisco, just like Sandy took down the New York City Marathon.
Meteorological research scientist, Dr. Cliff Mass, at the University of Washington is an expert on superstorms. He literally wrote the book on the subject. He calls storms like Sandy mid-latitude cyclones.
Mass says the Columbus Day Storm is the most powerful mid-latitude superstorm of the last 100 years. It evolved into a full-blown extratropical cyclone, the most powerful and dangerous form of post-tropical cyclones.
Like Superstorm Sandy, the Columbus Day Storm was born a hybrid of a tropical hurricane (called typhoons in the Pacific) and a powerful cold front.
It started with fast moving Typhoon Frieda that formed 10,000 miles away in the eastern Pacific near the Eniwetok Atoll northwest of the Marshall Islands. It strengthened to 115 mph winds of cat 2 strength before fading back into a tropical storm. After snaking across the Pacific it intensified as it raced up the Pacific Coast to Vancouver Island.
Just a couple months ago, the prestigious science journal Nature discounted that weather extremes are more frequent and more intense due to global warming. Dr. Mass wrote an article called “Climate Distortion” refuting a James Hansen paper on human-induced climate change.
An 11-year old nerdy little kid can confirm that. Are you listening, Al Gore?
Superstorm Sandy is one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the United States. It will take many years to fully recover and some places will never be the same again.
Literally dozens of similar severe storms have struck the United States, but they are no more frequent now than they were 200 years ago.
The Columbus Day Storm is the grandaddy of them all… and we only took a glancing blow from it.