Climate change was a piece of the Frankenstorm puzzle
One of the first pictures to infest social media as Sandy the Frankenstorm hit was this one – the Statue of Liberty with a big old wave smashing into her.
It’s fake, of course, a screenshot from apocalyptic climate change epic the Day After Tomorrow. That film has, for years, spurred on discussions about climate change and whether Earth will freeze over or whether it’s all a bunch of alarmist nonsense.
Meanwhile, all the sensible people in the real world are somewhere in between, where the real science is happening.
By now it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s somewhat of a consensus around the role of climate change in creating Sandy.
Those who are talking about it say that climate change probably super-sized the beast, put some meat on her bones.
They also all agree that it’s really bloody hard to tease out exactly how much greenhouse gas emissions had to do with it, and how much was normal climactic variability.
This is the mess and the beauty of science… it’s a process, not a conclusion.
Professor Matthew England is a Professor of Ocean Physics, chair of the Science Advisory Panel to the Australian Climate Commission, as well as being the joint director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (it’s infuriating that you can highlight someone’s solid credentials and still know that some lay dude who saw a graph once will think they know better, but anyhoo…)
He says everything we know about climate change predicts that there’ll be more Sandys, more intense storms and cyclones, overseas and here in Australia.
But he also highlights the complexity of how that happens, as do other scientists when talking about Sandy.
The oceans are warmer, which fuels the storm, but then there are also cold jet streams that spark a different reaction. Then there’s humidity to take into account. There’s a pretty good
explanation here at Scientific American.
What’s interesting is that the Presidential nominees have steered well clear of discussing climate change, even as it’s having such a dramatic impact on their country.
It’s dropped off the radar here in Australia, too. The more toxic the carbon tax debate, the less we talked about why we actually need the bloody thing – or some other way to reduce our carbon emissions.
Climate change seems to be political poison.
Meanwhile, scientists are just toiling along, doing what they do. All the ones who are talking to the media just assume anthropogenic climate change played a role in super sizing Sandy, and the discussion centres around how big that role was. They’re busy trying to refine predictions for future extreme weather events and better understand the complexities, and presumably hoping one day the policy makers will catch up.
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