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Saturday, January 5, 2013


Satellite Photo courtesy of NASA

Reflecting on the predictions of the “end of the world” slated for Winter Solstice 2012, when I saw the weather maps on October 28, 2012 of the approaching Hurricane about to collide with a Nor’easter, which would form a Superstorm 900 miles (1448 km) in diameter, the thought occurred to me that maybe the “end of the world” was about to arrive a few weeks early. (After all, what’s a few weeks in the scheme of things?) Standing on the banks of the Hudson River awaiting the predicted record storm surge at the Battery (southern tip of Manhattan Island), and having just published two articles called More Fracking Insanity Part Three, Oil Boom, dated October 16, 2012, which included six articles proving that Global Warming was accelerating, and warning about the day our coastal “cities are threatened to drown underwater”, and Part Four, The 800 Pound Gorilla …, on October 24, which talked about how the political campaigns of 2012, four years after the 2008 election in which Global Warming really was a National Issue for both the Democrats and McCain and the Republicans, I thought about how in this imminent election Global Warming and Climate Change were barely mentioned.

As scared as I was, I was praying that the Storm would veer off to sea, and that human suffering would be spared, but the weather charts showed that this time it would not, and that it was making a bee-line almost with intention straight to New York and Wall Street.

One of the hundreds of effects of Sandy in New York City, besides shutting down the subways and all the tunnels (other than the Lincoln tunnel) for weeks, is that Wall Street, one of the leading financial capitols of the world, was flooded and shut down for two days, the first time that’s happened due to a weather event since 1888. Wall Street and much of lower Manhattan were flooded with salt water from the storm surge. Hospitals were evacuated. It was a real disaster in the city, paralyzing Manhattan for days, but most of the damage was in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, and in Long Island and New Jersey. Many areas to this day are far from recovery.

And there were lots of warnings and evacuations before the storm, both governmental and in the press, but, having never considered a disaster of this magnitude actually happening in our own backyard, most were not taken seriously. One in retrospect very clairvoyant article appeared in the New York Times on October 25th, four days before the hurricane made landfall in New Jersey and was still in the Bahamas, which was entitled, Early Worries That Hurricane Sandy Could Be a ‘Perfect Storm’. The article referred to the predicted confluence of the hurricane with a major winter storm, same as happened in 1991 off the coast of New England, and included quotes and warnings from Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami, who referred to Sandy as a “Frankenstorm”.

And there is no doubt that Sandy was a monster storm, leaving in its wake almost 200 deaths, 125 of them in the US, and damages with estimates between 50 and 80 billion dollars. The scope of this storm was colossal, as much as 900 miles (1448 km) in diameter. Up to 8.5 million people lost power in 15 States from Florida to Michigan to Maine. And the total energy of the winds at tropical storm-force or higher was estimated at 329 terajoules, 2.7 times higher than Katrina’s peak energy, (equivalent to the energy of five Hiroshima sized atomic bombs), even though Katrina had much higher category 5 winds (175 miles per hour – 282 kmph), as opposed to Sandy, at category 1, and with less than hurricane strength winds shortly after landfall. The surf during Sandy was at record levels with a buoy in New York Harbor measured at a significant wave height (the average of the top third of the highest waves) of 32.5 feet (9.9 m), 6.5 feet (2 m) higher than the record, which happened in 2011 during Hurricane Irene. And Sandy had the lowest barometric air pressure reading at 940 mbar, another measure of hurricane strength, ever recorded in an Atlantic storm making landfall North of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

So many factors came together in a “perfect storm” of conditions that made Sandy the hybrid (part Hurricane, part Nor’easter) monster she turned out to be. First of all, the full moon coincided with the high tide and the 9 foot (2.75 m) storm surge for a record total of 13.88 feet (4.23 m) above sea level (mean low tide) measured at the Battery in NYC. Remember, wave action rides in on top of the combined storm surge and tidal surge, so on the beach the high water mark can be far greater. The surface temperatures in the western Atlantic were remarkably high, as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.8 degrees Celsius) higher than usual for this time of year, contributing to the moisture and energy of this storm. The Hurricane collided and merged with a cold front from the West and Arctic air from Canada just as it made landfall with a left turn toward the West near Atlantic City, New Jersey. This unusual left turn in the path of the storm was caused by a high pressure (fair weather) atmospheric blocking pattern near Greenland that some scientists believe was caused by more open water and less ice than ever before this summer in the Arctic. Besides turning the storm inland, the blocking pattern and the cold front from the West virtually stopped the forward motion of the storm, wind and rain, causing a lot more damage than otherwise.

As preposterous as the analogy of the “end of the world” sounds, for tens of thousands of people and their families it really did turn out to be the “end of the world”, insofar as these people lost everything, their homes, their cars, their furniture, their possessions, their mementos, their jobs, everything. Many of the survivors almost lost their lives, entire families forced to swim out of their flooded homes into the bitter cold black night with the wind blowing, the waves crashing, electrical transformers exploding, and power lines sparking. And when the stalled Superstorm ended, and the wind and rain finally stopped days later, it still felt and looked like the “end of the world”. Many areas in Staten Island, the Rockaways in Queens, Coney Island in Brooklyn, and New Jersey from the shore to inland communities like Sayreville, looked like bombed out war zones, with no electricity, no heat for many weeks. Some buildings two months later still have no electricity. And for the first several weeks after the storm, cell phone service was spotty, and there was a major shortage with hours long gasoline lines for cars and generators.

Photo of Staten Island Homes Destroyed - Courtesy of Google Images

And when your house is on its side and is torn apart, and your job is lost, and the smell of mold is everywhere, and you are still liable for your mortgage payments and taxes, and your entire family, pets and children, are housed by FEMA’s two-week vouchers in a tiny hotel room, and you are totally dependent on government and charity, after being independent all your lives, it really must feel like the “end of the world”. And for those who live above the 5th floor in 20 story apartment buildings in Coney Island, many of whom are too unhealthy or obese to climb the stairs or are confined to wheelchairs, in the pitch black after the flashlight batteries are long dead, with no elevators, no electricity, no heat, no water and little food for weeks on end, it must have totally felt like the “end of the world”. (It takes 2 plus gallons (10 liters) of water to flush a toilet. Imagine the stench and the horror.)

The question is whether or not people should move, and whether or not the people living closest to the water should rebuild. When homeowners emphatically tell you they do plan to rebuild, this question remains hidden, though they won’t admit it. They love their communities, their neighbors, their teachers, schools, churches and synagogues. These communities are all they’ve known all their lives, and their homes and their properties are the sum total of their accumulated wealth, and are currently unsalable. They have little alternative but to show their resilience, and rebuild their communities, but does it make sense?

Was Sandy the “storm of the century”? Or was it just the precursor of things to come, with even bigger storms, with even greater storm surges, and even more destruction?

Unfortunately the answer of whether to rebuild is clear after reading such articles as the one in the New York Times Sunday Review published on November 24, 2012 as an Opinion piece, entitled, Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines. It was written by Benjamin Strauss and Robert Kopp, climate scientists who work with the think tank, Climate Central, based in Princeton, New Jersey, and who maintain a website,, with detailed maps and charts showing how over 6 million Americans who live less than 5 feet above high tide are in serious jeopardy. (Over 600 million people worldwide, 1 out of 10, live in low lying areas, and will be in harm’s way eventually.) This article refers to study after study with basically the same conclusions, and ends with this quote, “There are two basic ways to protect ourselves from sea level rise: reduce it by cutting pollution, or prepare for it by defense (sea walls, for example) and retreat. To do the job, we must do both. We have lost our chance for complete prevention; and preparation alone, without slowing emissions, would — sooner or later — turn our coastal cities into so many Atlantises.”

But, scientists are not the best advocates or politicians. The problem with having scientists advocate positions is that the scientific method always leaves room for doubt, weakening the strength of their arguments. No matter how strong their belief in a hypothesis, they always leave caveats and room for data that that may go contrary to their hypotheses. Otherwise, they would not be scientists. (Even the corporate scientists, though they often will select data that goes into their studies to yield the desired outcomes, most of them will follow, or at least appear to follow, the scientific method during studies or experiments.)

As all climate scientists and meteorologists are quick to point out, climate is long -term, whereas weather is short-term, what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week. For an example, no single weather event can be defined as a product of Global Warming. There is a new process called “attribution” in climate science, where scientists attempt to quantify the percentage of effect of various phenomena contributing to a weather event. For instance, they might say that 10% of Sandy’s strength was caused by record temperatures in the Atlantic. But as with Sandy, there are many contributing phenomena, and there is no single cause.

But though much of the data, theories and hypotheses center on Global Warming as a major cause for many recent severe weather events, including the outbreaks of multiple major tornadoes (like the recent destruction in Joplin, Missouri), still no scientist, especially these highly esteemed scientists at Climate Central, will predict a specific upcoming weather event based on their hypotheses. For instance, they won’t predict a late-season North Atlantic hurricane like Irene or Sandy will happen again in 2013. And they won’t predict a warm snowless winter like last winter, even with 2012 proven to be the warmest year in recorded history. The warm atmosphere holds more moisture and if a warm, moist air mass hits a cold polar front, it could yield many, many feet of snow in a short period of time, as happened during Sandy in West Virginia where 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) of snow fell. These meteorologists and scientists are subject to the scientific method and are very guarded with their words and qualify every statement.

Even so, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), has been quoted as saying that it would be “irresponsible not to mention Climate Change” in the context of extreme weather events. Climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, explains that “Climate Change is present in every single meteorological event, in that these events are occurring within a baseline atmospheric environment that has shifted in favor of more intense meteorological events.” Dr. James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and adjunct professor at Columbia University, who testified before Congress about Climate Change as early as 1988, said that “it would be immoral to leave young people with a climate system out of control.” He also was quoted as saying that “the scientific excitement in comparing theory with data, and developing some understanding of global changes that are occurring is what makes all the other stuff (for example, the harassment he suffered during the Bush administration) worth it.” There is overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that Global Warming is not only happening, but is accelerating at an alarming rate.

Courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA)
Sea Level Rise at the Battery – New York City

 A scientific study called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project was conducted in 2011, as a truly independent group of scientists led by Richard Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley, who doubted the conclusions confirming Global Warming in other studies, including those of NOAA, the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research, and NASA’s Goddard Institute Surface Temperature Analysis. In an interview by the Guardian on October 20, 2011, Muller asserted, "...we are bringing the spirit of science back to a subject that has become too argumentative and too contentious, ....we are an independent, non-political, non-partisan group. We will gather the data, do the analysis, present the results and make all of it available. There will be no spin, whatever we find. We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close."

Ironically, the Charles G. Koch Foundation, also the major funder of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a group that masquerades as a citizen’s group, and that denies the existence of Global Warming, was among the donors that funded this project, most likely hoping that the conclusions of the study would go otherwise. But instead of crushing the findings of these studies, the BEST project confirmed that the findings from these previous studies were accurate. In an op-ed piece published in the New York Times on July 28, 2012, Muller wrote, "Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."

Woodstock Earth would never be happier if the theories of Global Warming and Climate Change were found to be untrue, but unfortunately year after year, we’ve been finding the hypotheses of climate scientists relative to Global Warming coming true exactly as predicted. The tornadoes, not just the hurricanes, seem to be getting larger and stronger, like at the devastation in Joplin, Missouri, for just one recent example. Look at the advent of more frequently reported winter thunderstorms and reports of Thundersnow. Just another example of how the climate is changing.

Courtesy of The University of Arizona

The Conservatives and Republicans often characterize the scientists and meteorologists quoted in this article (in reverse order, Muller, Hansen, Mann, Trenberth, and Strauss and Kopp of Climate Central) and even Bryan Norcross and Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel, as liberal ideologues with political agendas to advance the theory of Climate Change and Global Warming. (We contend that they are scientists whose lifetime studies led them to their conclusions.)  Concern for the environment is considered by the conservatives to be a liberal ideal. The conservative viewpoint is that climate trends are “cyclical”, and the fundamentalists and evangelists believe that everything will be okay, that God will provide, no matter what. They find it grotesque to assert that man could be powerful enough to thwart God’s will. Just as many conservatives still to this day doubt Darwin and the Theory of Evolution, many just as strongly push back against any level of believing that Global Warming and Climate Change are a real threat. I met a young man recently whose high school friends all agree with him on this subject, and he almost became violent at the very mention of Global Warming.

David H Koch, brother of Charles G Koch (previously mentioned as one of the donors to Muller’s BEST project), an owner of Koch Industries, the second largest privately owned company in the US, is an Energy and Pipeline billionaire, who funds a myriad of conservative and Tea Party groups and causes. Besides funding Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and contributing to dozens of other organizations that deny Climate Change, and after spending $125 million in their efforts to defeat Obama, they are now throwing the full weight of the AFP organization into defeating Obama’s bill in Congress to provide the States affected by Sandy with $60.4 billion in aid (of the $82 billion requested by the States involved). Remarkably, David H Koch, who lives in New York City on the Upper East Side, is against the federal government providing aid to Sandy disaster victims and to the States involved, and through AFP has released a letter warning members of Congress not to pass the Sandy Aid Bill, and that this will be a “key vote”, which is a threat of retaliation for noncompliance. Although the Bill passed the Senate on December 28, 2012, the Republican House Speaker Boehner removed it from the agenda of the House of Representatives, which, at very least, will delay the funding until the next Congress.

Diplomats and scientists from 190 countries attended the recent annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2012, which, as a crude joke (forgive the pun), took place in the opulence of Doha, Qatar in the heart of the oil rich Middle East. Once again, these talks were hardly worth mentioning. It was agreed, in principle, by the wealthy nations that they would provide an annual sum of $100 billion by the year 2020 for aid relative to sea level rise, but there is no effective means of collecting that money. And the Kyoto Protocols were extended until 2020 (only governing the limit of pollution by certain industrialized countries, but never agreed to by, for one, the US) and there will still be no means of enforcement. And the developing nations agreed, in principle, to accept a new protocol with greenhouse gas emission limits, even for them, by the year 2020. By then, India and China with their billions of people will have plenty of time to increase their pollution to a point that it will be too late. As long as the world is seduced by the lure of Fracking for an unlimited supply of Gas and Oil, every cubic foot and barrel of which they intend to burn, and as long as the need for electricity generation through these fossil fuels and coal expands, all this talk is just that, talk, and no action makes talk inconsequential.

Courtesy of Google Images
Areas in Blue – Most Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise

Finally, and back to our reflections on the “end of the world”, if we as a world community continue to be hell-bent on developing and burning the global newfound (through Fracking) endless supply of fossil fuels, and continue to spew an endless stream of heat trapping gases into our atmosphere, for hundreds of millions of us worldwide, it will truly be the “end of the world”. The only question is, how soon? And if you have children or grandchildren, that question is all the more poignant. Will it be in 2020, 2030, 2040, or 2050? Though it may be too late to avoid the consequences of Global Warming entirely, and though the longer we wait before we actually do something the less effective it will be, the answer is still, to some extent, up to us, and how successful we will be in limiting the warming of our atmosphere and the planet we live on.

Post-Sandy, we are still talking about the praiseworthy actions of Rescue Workers and Emergency Responders in New York and New Jersey. Now we ourselves, as a world community, must get to work and urgently respond to the overriding Emergency we all currently face, (and I don’t mean just paying lip service to it), or, as silly as this might sound to you, the “end of the world” will be at hand sooner than you think, for at a minimum six million of us in the US and hundreds of millions of us on Earth, not to mention what such a disaster could do to the world economy, which would affect every single one of us, even those of us that live well inland or even on top of a mountain.

Before we introduce the video, we recommend a very well-crafted article by Joe Romm of called, From Sandy to Sandy Hook: The Moral Urgency for Action Even When It Appears ‘The Politics Are Too Hard’. It uses President Obama’s speech at the interfaith prayer vigil after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, about caring for the safety of our children, and it relates that to Global Warming. We encourage you to read it.

After reading hundreds of articles and viewing hours of video news reports on Sandy and its aftermath, with story after story of horror and heroics, we really didn’t have the heart to include more. During the 12/12/12 Benefit Concert for Sandy Victims in Madison Square Garden in NYC with some great entertainment, they showed short videos of people in the hardest hit neighborhoods, and heard their stories, and it was hard to keep the tears from flowing. And many of these people showed their resilience and talked resolutely about their comeback and how they were going to rebuild, but knowing what we’ve been talking about in this article, the tears started flowing even more. There is so much more on this storm and its aftermath on the Internet. We encourage you to check it out..

The video we have decided to include is a short presentation by James Hansen, one of our preeminent climate scientists and the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies for over three decades, enduring lots of harassment during the second Bush administration. We’ve already included two of his quotes in the body of this article, but his presentation on Global Warming will be like nothing you’ve ever seen, especially if you are a geek who’s interested in the science behind it all, and there is nothing geekier than the science of weather and climate. As always, we encourage you to research weather and climate on the Internet. There’s so much out there, and it is fascinating.

And we’d like to wish a Happy New Year to our readers in Russia and Australia, our biggest audience outside the US, and to all of our US and international readers. We really appreciate you taking the time to read our articles. And we extra-appreciate when you refer them to friends. We love getting feedback from our readers. Our email address is For the sake of our people, our families, and Mother Earth, we encourage all of you, as charter members of Woodstock Earth, to spread the word and help get these stories out.

James Hansen: Why I must speak out about
 Climate Change

BREAKING NEWS – January 10, 2013

This just in. Though we’ve been focused on Sandy, we’ve been hearing individually about terrible weather events in many parts of the world, but we didn’t put it all together until we read an article in the New York Times. Heat, Flood or Icy Cold, Extreme Weather Rages Worldwide.  From the repeated floods in England to the extreme record cold in China and Russia to the blazing record heat and drought in Australia and South America to the blizzard and rainstorm in Jerusalem and Amman, the severe weather around the world seems to have increased, and it is apparently attributable to Climate Change. And unfortunate people are suffering all over the world as a result. The two questions are, is this the new normal, and what, if anything, can we do about it?  Stop burning fossil fuels, stop methane-leaking fracking, stop flaring methane gas from oil wells, and stop releasing hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and other greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere.

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