Hurricane Harbingers

Are hurricanes becoming stronger and more numerous?

New Orleans is only three-fifths the city it was before Hurricane Katrina hit. In 2005, the Big Easy was home to 455,000 people. Today just 273,000 dwell there. The city drowned and 1,300 people died because a Category 3 hurricane (wind speeds 111-130 miles per hour) overwhelmed poorly designed Army Corps of Engineers levees. Now, with Hurricane Dean churning its way across the Caribbean aiming for the Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) bureaucrats are rushing "federal assets" to south Texas just in case Dean veers northward.

The 2005 hurricane season was the most active on record. It started early and ran late, featuring 27 named storms, of which 15 were hurricanes. In May 2006, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency's (NOAA) National Hurricane Center predicted that "a very active hurricane season" was looming. According to NOAA's May 2006 forecast, the season would likely see 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become "major" hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher. On August 8, 2006, NOAA lowered the number of forecasted storms slightly to 12 to 15 named storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, and three or four becoming major hurricanes. NOAA also predicted a high likelihood (75 percent chance) that 2006 would be an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.

Fortunately for coastal residents, NOAA was way off the mark. In 2006, there were only 5 hurricanes, of which two were major, and just 4 named tropical storms. NOAA noted, "On average, the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes." Basically, 2006 turned out to be a slightly below average year. What happened?

Several factors affect hurricane formation. Sea surface temperatures must be above 82 degrees Fahrenheit. During 2006, a number of factors combined to keep hurricanes at bay. Ocean temperatures were lower than in 2005 because of persistent easterly winds kept drawing up cooler water from the ocean's depths. In addition, recent research indicates that the numerous dust storms flowing off the Sahara in 2006 somehow contaminated the hurricane nurseries off the Cape Verde Islands. But probably the biggest factor was that the eastern Pacific Ocean flipped from La Nina to El Nino conditions. During an El Nino, water temperatures off the coast of South America warm up and this has global effects on climate. One important effect is that El Nino increases wind shear over the Caribbean which inhibits hurricane formation by decapitating them.

Controversial recent research suggests that man-made global warming will produce more and more intense hurricanes in the future. In August 2005, Massachusetts Institute of Technology tropical storm researcher, Kerry Emanuel published an analysis in Nature that claimed that Atlantic hurricanes had become much more powerful as a result of higher average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) since the mid-1970s. A month later, researchers including Peter Webster at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Greg Holland at the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT) published a study which also found that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes had increased over the past 35 years, mostly in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The study also noted that the overall number of hurricanes had actually decreased around the world, except in the north Atlantic. The researchers argued that tropical ocean SSTs rose by approximately 0.5 degrees celsius between 1970 and 2004, fueling more intense hurricanes.

In July, Holland and Webster published a new study in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society which found that the number of tropical storms in the Atlantic have doubled over the past century due to global warming. The study claims that the number of tropical cyclones averaged six per year between 1905 and 1930, rose to 9.4 annually between 1931 and 1994, and jumped to 14.8 per year since 1994. In each period a bit more than half of the storms became hurricanes. The researchers find that the trend of more hurricanes results from an average sea surface temperature increase of 0.7 degrees Celsius in the eastern Atlantic of over the past century. They conclude, "[W]e are led to the confident conclusion that the recent upsurge in tropical cyclone frequency is due in part to greenhouse warming, and this is most likely the dominant effect."

On the other hand, National Hurricane Center researcher Chris Landsea is not so sure. He argues in the May 1 issue of the journal EOS that Holland and Webster have underestimated the number of hurricanes that occurred in the early part of this century. Why? Because many storms would have been missed since there were far fewer observers to note them earlier in the century. Landsea concludes that "improved monitoring in recent years is responsible for most, if not all, of the observed trend in increasing frequency of tropical storms." Landsea slices the frequency data differently, arguing that there have been alternating multi-decadal quiet and active periods, e.g., quiet up to 1925, active between 1925 and 1970, quiet from 1970 to 1994, and active since.

Paradoxically, man-made global warming might offer some relief from hurricane assaults. A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in April suggests that man-made global warming will increase wind shear over the Caribbean and Atlantic. If this finding is confirmed, such an increase in wind shear would tend to reduce the number and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.

So what's up for this year? Until Dean spun up, the 2007 hurricane season had been pretty quiet. In May, NOAA predicted the Atlantic would experience 13 to 17 named storms, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which three to five could become major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher. On August 9, NOAA revised its forecast for the 2007 hurricane season downward slightly to 13 to 16 named storms, seven to nine hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes. However, agency scientists boosted the chance that the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season would be above normal from a 75 percent chance to 85 percent. Dean is expected to hit Mexico as a Category 5 storm with winds of over 155 miles per hour.

On top of any effects that global warming may have on the future intensity and number of hurricanes, many researchers believe that we have also entered into a multi-decadal period in which hurricane activity is naturally higher. The bad news is that this period of higher activity could persist for the next four decades. So more people and their property will be at risk simply because they have chosen to move into and build in harm's way. Between 1960 and 1994 the populations of the eight most hurricane prone states—North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas—increased by 80 percent. Even worse, coastal populations of these states rose by 103 percent.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that despite the tremendous violence of hurricanes, they have killed only about 15,000 Americans since 1900 and 8,000 of those died in the great Galveston storm on September 8 of that year. After 1985, the number of Americans who died as a result of hurricanes averaged 16 per year (in comparison, about 67 people are killed by lightning and 65 by tornadoes each year). While hurricanes kill relatively few people (with the horrific recent exception of Katrina), the damage they do to property is escalating. "There is a huge upward trend in hurricane damage in the U.S., but all or almost all of this is due to increasing coastal population and building in hurricane-prone areas," notes MIT researcher Kerry Emanuel.

A new study in the journal Natural Hazards Review normalized storm damage by estimating how much damage a past storm would cause if it struck the same area now. The normalization procedure attempts to take into account increased wealth, population and an inflation factor, though not everyone agrees that it succeeds in doing so. In one example, the researchers compared the damage caused by the 1979 Hurricane Frederic which came ashore in Alabama. In 1979, the storm caused $2.3 billion in damages and would cause more than $10 billion today. As the study notes, "Unless action is taken to address the growing concentration of people and properties in coastal areas where hurricanes strike, damage will increase, and by a great deal, as more and wealthier people increasingly inhabit these coastal locations."

But what action should be taken? Well, one idea is to eliminate incentives like the Federal government's National Flood Insurance Program. Since 1968, the NFIP collected $1.1 billion in premiums and paid out an average of $1 billion to cover flood losses annually. So far, so good—until Katrina. The NFIP borrowed $18.5 billion to pay off Katrina claims and, according the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the program has no prospect of ever collecting enough in premiums to pay it back. As the GAO notes, "Because of the catastrophic nature of flooding and the inability to adequately predict flood risks, private insurance companies have largely been unwilling to underwrite and bear the risk of flood insurance." One sensible way to discourage people from living and building in hurricane prone areas would be to eliminate federal flood insurance.

Nevertheless, the coasts will remain population and development magnets and a richer society will be able to afford better hurricane defenses, such as, stronger buildings, higher levees, and protective surge barriers. But what's the best way to pay for them? One proposal would be instead of depending on "federal assets," local jurisdictions should be pushed to pay for and maintain their own hurricane defenses. If New Orleans needs new and better levees, then the city's citizens should pay for them. If New Orleans residents refuse to tax themselves enough to do so that means that it doesn't make economic sense to live and work there. One proof of the adequacy of their levees would be the willingness of private insurers to offer flood policies to residents. The same logic applies to all coastal counties. Ultimately, instead of retreating from the shore, I believe that we will instead learn how to live with stronger storms.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  • getyourfactsright||

    "Are hurricanes becoming stronger and more numerous?"

    No.

    BTW, El Nino is not caused by a warming of the ocean, it's the slackening of the trade winds which cause the warm water. When the winds die off, water that is usually pushed towards Asia comes sloshing back towards the west.

  • ||

    getyourfactsright: I didn't say one or other on stronger and numerous--I did link to a pretty wide variety of peer-reviewed articles debating question. Have you read any of them?

    As for what the El Nino, I didn't say anything about its causes, I just correctly pointed out that the waters off the coast of South America warm up which has global effects.

  • ||

    Nevertheless, the coasts will remain population and development magnets and a richer society will be able to afford better hurricane defenses, such as, stronger buildings, higher levees, and protective surge barriers.

    Or, frankly, disposable buildings.

    As higher and higher wealth and population bids for limited coastal property, the price of the land will far outstrip the price of the structures on it. If your beach house is expected to be hit by a category 5 hurricane every 20 years, then you build a house that you don't mind replacing every 20 years. And you don't even insure it. Perhaps you add a sealed underground shelter you can toss all your valuables into before the storm hits. Then you rebuild the house and repopulate it with the valuables.

  • Bee||

    ONLY 15,000 people killed in hurricanes? I understand that that number pales in comparison to other killers of American life, but it still seems like a lot for a disaster that you know, more or less, is heading your way. That's a sad total.

  • ||

    Doesn' offereing the choice of dealing with increases in hurricaine damage from global warming via abandoning the coasts vs. dealing with the increase in hurricaine damage from global warming by learing to live with stronger storms leave out a rather notable third option? At least over the long term?

  • ||

    Ron's point about hurricaines not killing as many people as thuderstorms or tornadoes should come with a caveat - global warming would likely cause increases in the number and/or severity of those events, too.

    The atmosphere is a chaotic, complex system, and global warming is the introduction of additional energy into that system. Chaotic systems never - never - react to an increase in energy inputs by becoming calmer, or by smoothly spreading the increase across the system. Additional enery increases the roiling effect, and the number and intensity of severe events of all sorts. Roiling is exactly what causes tornadoes and thunderstorms - hot air masses are hotter, cold air masses are colder, and the two are thrown together more often, with greater force, and at greater temperature differentials.

    BTW, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society would be a great name for an album. Especially if the band was called the Royal Society.

  • ||

    Which third option?

    That global warming will decrease hurricane damage?

    Or that global warming will neither increase or decrease hurricane damage, and only people's desire to build more stuff in hurricanes' paths will increase hurricane damage?

    I can think of another third option that might be on your mind, but taking it is possibly far more expensive than dealing with hurricane damage that can be predicted long-term and handled much more cheaply by fortification, abandonment, or tolerance.

  • ||

    Slightly off topic, bit did anyone notice the number of deaths in Mexico from Dean? Only 11 people from a category 5 storm. Reports indicate that the vast majority of people stayed calm the entire time, not looting rioting etc.

    Isn't it pretty said that a poor area of the world like the Yucatan peninsula handled themselves better during a hurricane than New Orleans?

  • ||

    I'd like to go a single thread without seeing someone play dumb.

    Just one. That would be nice.

  • ||

    Chaotic systems never - never - react to an increase in energy inputs by becoming calmer, or by smoothly spreading the increase across the system.

    You should be very careful about using never never language when discussing chaotic systems. Your addition of those terms make your statement patently untrue.

    Think about frogs swimming and hopping in a pot of water. I can't tell where they are going to swim or hop next. Can you? It's chaotic. Now put the pot on the stove. Yep, they're swimming and hopping. Maybe swimming and hopping a little faster now. Oh, now they aren't moving at all. Now you can pretty well predict where they are going to float, their being dead and all. Hmm... You added energy to a chaotic system, and the system lost its chaotic motion.

    Chaotic systems require being in a gray area of tension between opposing influences -- the hot and cold that you bring up. It is the tension and the difference between those opposing influences that defines the scope of the chaos. Since global warming will warm cold air more than it will warm warm air, it is not at all obvious that extreme chaotic effects won't decrease with global warming.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    Nevertheless, the coasts will remain population and development magnets and a richer society will be able to afford better hurricane defenses, such as, stronger buildings, higher levees, and protective surge barriers.

    A lot of money was poured into NOLA's system of levees, etc. to no effect. As I recall, it was determined that some of the levees collapsed prior to the storm surge; which sounds like they couldn't have withstood even a fairly weak hurricane.

    Anyway, other methods - like expanding Louisiana's "natural defenses" (the marsh system and the like) - may prove more useful over time. Particularly since levees and pumping stations can exacerbate problems - that is lead to a gradual sinking of an area (which is what is happening in NOLA).

  • ||

    Mike P,

    There is one thing you can depend on chaotic systems to do, and that's to be chaotic.

    The frogs leaving the pot is not a chaotic system - once you introduce the pain of boiling, the system ceases to be chaotic, and the linear behavior of the frogs to avoid pain kicks in, converting it to a non-chaotic system.

    There is no such override in the atmosphere.

  • getyourfactsright||

    Ron,

    My point is that it's the slackening of the trade winds which have a global effect on climate, one of those being a warming of the water off the coast of South America. The water warming is not a cause, it's an effect. To me, your statement implies it is the cause.

  • Syloson of Samos||

  • ||

    Syloson of Samos,

    What's the deal? Bailey mentions in his first paragraph that the disaster of New Orleans was due to "poorly designed Army Corps of Engineers levees".

    I'm guessing that your point is that Katrina wasn't really a "natural" disaster. Is your point rather that New Orleans cannot be protected at any price?

  • Syloson of Samos||

    MikeP,

    Levees of any sort might be a poor way to protect NOLA (particularly as a primary or first line of defense). So it isn't that they were simply poorly designed.

  • ed||

    Are hurricanes becoming stronger and more numerous?

    I don't know nothing about the weather, but I do know a still-shell-shocked governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency when it was obvious to everyone that Hurricane Dean would miss her by a thousand miles. What's becoming more numerous are soft-shelled politicians covering their asses at the slightest breeze.

  • ||

    Syloson of Samos,

    No disagreement there. I don't think Ron Bailey would disagree either, but you are right that he doesn't mention it in the article as an alternative -- or more likely a supplement -- to levees.

    Nonetheless, restoring dampening wetlands is yet another reason to place hurricane abatement measures under local control and payment. The Corps of Engineers has a hammer called levees, so they use them. If the Corps of Greenpeace were in control, their hammer would be the wetlands -- vital local commercial interests nearer the gulf be damned. Better to localize the issue and let New Orleans and greater Louisiana decide the measures and whether they are worth the costs they have to pay.

  • ||

    joe,

    The frogs didn't leave the system: The frogs died. Yes, the addition of energy pushed them out of the realm of the temperature where frogs can live into the less nonlinear realm where they die. But most chaotic systems survive only in the nonlinear realm between more predictable realms.

    Think of an orbital bumper for a space station. Hit it with something slow, and the something bounces off in a very predictable manner. Hit it with something traveling at orbital speeds, and the something punches a hole in the bumper as it vaporizes into a harmless and perfectly predictable cloud. Hit it with something in the hazardous nonlinear region in between, where it punctures the bumper yet does not vaporize, and the behavior is chaotic.

    There is no such override in the atmosphere.

    There need not be an override. There need only be a mechanism by which more of the planet becomes horse latitudes or the like.

    Perhaps you are thinking of something besides chaotic behavior. Chaotic is neither equal to nor necessarily implied by high energy.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    MikeP,

    As for the price, I'd say that NOLA as it existed prior to Katrina will be hard to defend at the price tag. I hope that whatever the city looks like in the future that it will be a place that works as much with nature as against it. This is coming from someone who happens to love NOLA.

  • ||

    joe,

    If we agree that the global atmosphere is a closed system, then the second law of thermodynamics would apply. I mean that's the whole global warming argument - that what we do locally is added into the system and spread globally.

  • ||

    joe,

    "Chaotic systems never - never - react to an increase in energy inputs by becoming calmer, or by smoothly spreading the increase across the system."

    Let me join the pile up here... this statement is in error based on a misunderstanding of what is meant by a chaotic system.

    Read your Prigogine again and get a report to MikeP's (or Dr T's) desk by morning.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilya_Prigogine

  • ||

    fwiw,

    The frog analogy is a really, really, really bad analogy.

  • robc||

    Despite our previous chaos argument (in which I was right and NM was wrong), I have to agree with Neu Mejican here:

    "The frog analogy is a really, really, really bad analogy."

  • ||

    But I found it ribbeting...

  • ||

    The frog analogy is a really, really, really bad analogy.

    I have to agree with Neu Mejican and robc.

    But when given a statement so wrong because is it so unequivocal, a really, really bad and perhaps ridiculous counterexample is adequate.

    Having thought about it more, next time I'll go with a marble in a pot of water heated until the water is gone. For extra credit, I'll make it a little earth marble...

  • ||

    Mike P,

    But most chaotic systems survive only in the nonlinear realm between more predictable realms.

    OK, if we put enough heat into the system that the atmosphere burned off, it would become a steady-state system.

    But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about changes within a chaotic system that don't alter what kind of system it is. In such circumstances, we won't see a result of greater overall calm - your horse lattitudes example. The horse lattitudes exist as a pocket within a larger chaotic system, not a break from that system.

    But you're right, when I said "never," I didn't take into account the introduction of enough energy to destroy the system.

  • ||

    sixstring,

    You are right, of course, the energy gets spread through the system. But not smoothly, and that was my point. It gets spread unevenly, increasing the height of the peaks and the depths of the troughts, was my point.

  • Jennifer||

    After 1985, the number of Americans who died as a result of hurricanes averaged 16 per year (in comparison, about 67 people are killed by lightning and 65 by tornadoes each year).

    Might this have more to do with the fact that when a hurricane's approaching, you generally have at least a day's notice to prepare or get out of the way, whereas lightning and tornadoes are more likely to be unexpected?

  • ||

    We're talking about changes within a chaotic system that don't alter what kind of system it is. In such circumstances, we won't see a result of greater overall calm - your horse lattitudes example.

    Yet Bailey gives an example where exactly that happens: The characteristics of the chaotic system change because global warming increases upper level wind shear that counters hurricane formation. There is more energy in the atmosphere, but less concentrated energy hits the coasts in the form of hurricanes.

    And, taking your tornado example, there are few places in the world where tornadoes readily form. The most prevalent happens to be in the middle of the US. It is clear that that particular chaotic behavior requires a careful balance of conditions. There is absolutely no a priori reason to think that global warming will induce more tornadoes due to the input of energy rather than fewer tornadoes due to upsetting the delicate meteorological balance of Tornado Alley.

  • ||

    joe,

    You are not quite getting the overall error.

    It gets spread unevenly, increasing the height of the peaks and the depths of the troughts, was my point.

    This is not a predictable outcome in a chaotic system. The additional energy might smooth out the peaks and valleys. (a more stable hotter state, for instance). Or maybe not. Can't be predicted in detail 'cuz it is a chaotic system.

    Climate and weather should not be mixed in discussions of what will occur when additional energy is put into the system.

  • ||

    robc,

    I am sure you are remembering that incorrectly.

    Not that I even remember what you are talking about...

    (^o^)

  • ||

    The frog analogy is a really, really, really bad analogy.

    By the way, just so you don't think I went with the very first thing to cross my mind...

    My first thought for an example of chaotic behavior suppressed by the addition of energy was a butterfly getting stomped on.

  • ||

    Most of this article is selective and ad hoc garbage except for the last 2 paragraphs. In those 2 graphs were the sole statements of any kind of wisdom in the whole piece.

    The rest was a bunch of interesting facts and second-hand suppositions loosely strung into a not very convincing opinion piece more typical of Cathy Young's "this guy says this and that guy says that" approach.

    You could have made a much better piece expanding on those last 2 paragraphs.

    Sorry...I usually like your stuff but this was kinda weak.

    Why spend 12 graphs arguing about the weather - on par with arguing about politics or religion - when your whole point in the first place was a (very accurate) slam regarding the pointlessness of government financing human folly?

  • ||

    "Jennifer | August 21, 2007, 4:36pm | #
    After 1985, the number of Americans who died as a result of hurricanes averaged 16 per year (in comparison, about 67 people are killed by lightning and 65 by tornadoes each year).

    Might this have more to do with the fact that when a hurricane's approaching, you generally have at least a day's notice to prepare or get out of the way, whereas lightning and tornadoes are more likely to be unexpected?"

    Also the decision that the deaths from Katrina are not the results of a hurricane. It's like saying that if an earthquake collapses a dam, you shouldn't count the deaths from the dam collapse as resulting from the earthquake. In this case, the purpose is to make hurricanes look less deadly than they are.

  • Mark Bahner||

    Hi,

    Nevertheless, the coasts will remain population and development magnets and a richer society will be able to afford better hurricane defenses, such as, stronger buildings, higher levees, and protective surge barriers.



    Let's talk about storm surge barriers. The U.S. Gulf Coast is about 1600 miles long. The U.S. East Coast from Miami to Boston is about the same 1600 miles long. That's 3200 miles of coastline to protect from storm surge.

    Does it make sense to build permanent storm surge barriers for Galveston, New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, Charleston, Wilmington, Virginia Beach, New York, etc. etc. etc.?

    No, it doesn't. What makes more sense is to develop a storm surge protection system that can be deployed *anywhere* along that 3200 total miles within a few days.

    Is that doable? In a word, "Of course!" Engineers can do anything. (Except count words.)

    The real questions are:

    1) How effective would such a system be?, and

    2) How much would it cost?

    The answer to question #2 depends on the answer to question #1. For example, a system that can protect 10 miles of coastline from a 5 foot storm surge obviously will cost a small fraction of the cost of a system that would protect 100 miles of coastline from a 20 foot storm surge.

    So a decision would need to be made about the length of coast to be protected, and the maximum height of storm surge for which protection is needed. Let's say we go with 100 miles of protection, with the 50 miles in the center having 20 foot storm surge protection, decreasing linearly to 5 foot of storm surge protection at the edges.

    What would that cost? Well, let's spitball $100 million a mile in for the 50 miles in the center, and an average of $50 million a mile for the 50 miles on the two edges. That would be $7.5 billion. Is that a reasonable cost to pay? Well, the storm surge damage from Katrina was $80 billion!

    Further, Roger Pielke Jr. has estimated that if the Great Miami hurricane of 1926 were to hit Miami this year, the cost would be over $130 billion. This is further estimated to rise to almost $500 billion by 2020.

    The U.S. government, or coastal state governments, should be setting up conferences to discuss designs for a hurricane storm surge protection system capable of being deployed within days, to protect anywhere along the Gulf or East coasts.

    It will be a lot cheaper than cleaning up after hurricanes, as Katrina alone demonstrated.

  • ||

    On top of any effects that global warming may have on the future intensity and number of hurricanes, many researchers believe that we have also entered into a multi-decadal period in which hurricane activity is naturally higher. The bad news is that this period of higher activity could persist for the next four decade.

    The next three decades would be the high end of the average. If you presume the multi-decadal oscillation theory is valid, then we're already a dozen years into the period of high activity. And the 10 to 40 year span given in that paper is a lot broader than the consensus -- generally, the oscillations are expected every 15 to 25 years. So it's also possible we're nearly through with the high period.

    Multidecadal oscillation is consensus among meteorlogists, but not necessarily among climate scientists. The most prominent weather modeler when it comes to Atlantic hurricane forecasts is Bill Gray, who also happens to be a global warming skeptic. Many of the climate modelers -- including Kerry Emmanuel and Peter Webster -- cast doubt on the entire multidecadal oscillation theory, basically because they believe the trough years can be attributed to volcanic eruptions and high emissions of sulfate aerosols, which have since been overwhelmed by greenhouse gases. It ends up being statistical noise that gives a false appearance of oscillation in what is, after all, only about 100 years of solid data.

  • ||

    Ron, you're certainly pointing in all the right directions with this.

    I would just note that the denial of climate change from the right certainly detracts from people and communities focussing with on investing in local adaptation (not only for hurricanes, but also droughts and sudden weather events), which will largely be a private matter but still involve significant public infrastructure.

    It would of course be salutary if the federal government left levees and coastal defenses to the coasts, rather than subsidizing risky build up with taxpayer dollars where we get bit twice (subsidy and then disaster relief). The NO levee failure would have been less likely to happen if NO residents had to invest in it and had control over it.

    Deltas need to be rebuilt as well - what are your thoughts on how that should happen?

    Another undiscussed aspect of course is the role of subsidence from petroleum development. Affected parties just have difficulties getting together and establishing causation.

    TT

  • ||

    Mark, your storm surge program might be perfectly feasible technically, but it would almost certainly be a boondoggle, encourage risky development and lead to legal claims against the government if the barriers were not deployed on a timely basis - which would of course occur.

    TT

  • ||

    From the article
    "Well, one idea is to eliminate incentives like the Federal government's National Flood Insurance Program. "

    Not only would I eliminate the National Flood Insurance Program, I would also sue the home owners who built in coastal areas and on barrier Islands for environmental damage caused by the debris from their homes after a hurricane.

  • Skeptikon||

    The article says: "research suggests that man-made global warming will produce more and more intense hurricanes in the future"
    The problem with all this modeled research predicting the future is that it ignores the available data showing what has happened in the past (which often contradicts the scary future predictions)
    Take a look at www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/GW_Part4_ClimaticEvents.htm for documentation of actual data. Empirical science provides better information than theortical models do.

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