New Orleans in the southern US has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. According to tonights ABC television news, 80% of the city is under water.
I was in Louisiana in February 1999 and remember enjoying a meal of crawfish in Baton Rouge (just north of New Orleans) and hearing about Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and how New Orleans is sinking anyway – how one day it will dissapear into the Gulf of Mexico.
I have found this photo of the Mississippi River at New Orleans taken in 1999. And to put the region in some perspective, the Mississippi drains a catchment of over 1 million square miles, collecting water from 32 US states, before reaching New Orleans and the sea – according to a powerpoint I did in 1999 that I have just found. Check out this old slide: Mississippi drainage basin .
According to my book Roadside Geology of Louisiana:
“Louisiana hosts nearly 40% of the wetlands of the United States, and they are disappearing at a rapid rate. About 35 square miles of wetland in Louisiana slip away each year, an important loss of habitat to innumerable species of birds, animals, fish and plants. Public attention has focused on wetland loss in Louisiana in recent years, and blame flies in many directions. In truth the phenomenon is largely due to natural geological proceses, though human intervention certainly plays a significant role.”
The book by Darwin Spearing (published by Moutain Press Publishing Co, Missoula, Montana, 1995) goes on to explain how 7,000 years of delta construction is being lost to subsidence during the past few thousand years:
“… before humans ever dredged a channel, build a control levee, or cut through a marsh to reach an offshore oil platform. … whether deltas and their wetlands survive or sink benealth the sea hinges on the fine balance between sediment and subsistence. Deltas tend to sink as their soft and watery mud compacts beneath the weight of more mud laid on it. If no new sediment is added to the top of the pile, the top of the delta will sink beneath the waves. If the supply of sediment delivered to the delta exceeds the sinking rate, the delta will continue to grow and wetlands will expand.
…Nevertheless, tinkering human hands have certainly accelerated wetland loss during the last century. Their principle contribution has been construction of continuous levees along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to Venice. The levees do contain floods, but they also deprive the marshes of the sediment they need to stay above sea level. Furthermore, the levees force the river to dump all its sediment at the extreme end of the delta, where waves and currents cannot rework it into sandy coastlines as they did before the levees were build. Much of the sediment slides down the continental slope and onto the Mississippi fan on the deep ocean floor.
… The second major human contributor to wetland destruction (and the sinking of New Orleans) through sediment loss is outside Louisiana. Scores of dams were build during the past century upriver in the Mississippi drainage and in its tributories. They were designed to control floods, generate electricity, store fresh water, and provide recreation. They also trap so much sediment that what reaches Louisiana is only about half that of a century ago.”
So this explains why New Orleans is below sealevel.
And for those who want to argue climate change, I received the following from Benny Peiser:
After reading the round-up of German newspaper editorials in Spiegel Online, one can’t be blamed for thinking that global warming is leading to an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes hitting the US mainland (strangely, Halliburton was not mentioned as the culprit in this present storm). Going back to 1851, what does the actual data from NOAA (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastdec.shtml) say:
Fig 1: The average number of all hurricanes per decade (in red) is 17.7
Fig 2: The average number of major hurricanes per decade (in red) is 6.0
Of course, 2001-2004 is not a complete decade. If you think the increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes is due to global warming, be glad I did not add trend lines. There are plenty of real environmental problems to consider, save the global warming hype.
Knowing the above facts, consider the statement by Germany’s Environmental Minister, Jurgen Trittin, a Green Party member (natch):
“There is only one possible route of action,” he writes. “Greenhouse gases have to be radically reduced and it has to happen worldwide. Until now, the US has kept its eyes shut to this emergency. (Americans) make up a mere 4 percent of the population, but are responsible for close to a quarter of emissions.” He adds that the average American is responsible for double as much carbon dioxide as the average European.
“The Bush government rejects international climate protection goals by insisting that imposing them would negatively impact the American economy. The American president is closing his eyes to the economic and human costs his land and the world economy are suffering under natural catastrophes like Katrina and because of neglected environmental policies.”
This Green Party lunatic, The German Minister for the Environment, has come out and blamed George Bush for Katrina. Talk about desperate politicians;
“By neglecting environmental protection, America’s president shuts his eyes to the economic and human damage that natural catastrophes like Katrina inflict on his country and the world’s economy. …many Americans have long been unwilling to follow the president’s errant environmental policy. Indications are multiplying that Bush has more than Katrina’s headwind blowing in his face… . When reason finally pays a visit to climate-polluter headquarters, the international community has to be prepared to hand America a worked out proposal for the future of international climate protection. The German Government stands ready.”
Phil Done says
You cannot attribute Katrina to global warming. But hurricanes have intensified and will get stronger as sea temperature increase. Future of a globally warmed world is more intense tropical cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes.
A pity to have to use a tragedy like this to illustrate the point.
And while he may be a lunatic they have gotten fish back into the Rhine and have cleaned up their environmental act. Compare the US performance! Who has the better report card on quality of life and the environment ? (OK I await a roasting on East Germany and autobahns ..)
The major problem is not crawfish but oil. At the risk of flogging a dead horse have a look at these links:
“There are MANY production platforms missing (as in not visible from the air). This means they have been totally lost. I am talking about 10’s of platforms, not single digit numbers. Each platform can have from 4 to 100+ wells on it. Most larger ones have 20-30 wells in this area, with numerous caisson wells. They are on their sides, on the bottom of the gulf – they will likely be left as reef material, provided we can get permission. MMS regulations require us to plug each of the wells that were on these platforms – HUGE cost now, as the platforms are gone… Hopefully, MMS will grant `abandon in place’ status for these wiped out structures.”
“Hurricane Katrina smashes “Energy Alley,” a concentrated area of oil production in Gulf of Mexico that supplies about 35% of America’s domestic oil.
– White House says oil will get cheaper, but makes hush- hush plans to increase the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by 42% to ONE BILLION barrels of crude. Why are they so eager to add to the SPR when oil prices are high?
– Saudis reveal they won’t be able to meet oil demand – first time EVER they’ve admitted the awful truth”
Didnt take too long for the resident comics to surface and snatch a victory from the jaws of Katrina.
Make hay while the sun shines me boyos!
Remember Gulf War 1, Saddam set alight all the oil wells, the experts said it would take decades to put them out and the oil shortage would cripple the world.
Well it didnt and the experts were wrong, as usual.
Keep this up and you will go blind Ender.
I gather Rog, that you don’t think it will take long to rebuild New Orleans, and you don’t think the impact on the US or world economy will be much.
Let me be clear on your reasoning though:
Some people once predicted something and were wrong. These people are ‘the experts’, and they are usually wrong.
predictions (presumably made by the same ‘experts’) about New Orleans taking a long time to rebuild and the world economy taking a hit are probably wrong.
Is that how you worked it out?
yes rog experts are always wrong. I am right in assuming that you are one of these ‘experts’.
Phil Done says
Nature 436, 686-688 (4 August 2005) | doi: 10.1038/nature03906
Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years
Abstract: Theory and modelling predict that hurricane intensity should increase with increasing global mean temperatures, but work on the detection of trends in hurricane activity has focused mostly on their frequency3, 4 and shows no trend. Here I define an index of the potential destructiveness of hurricanes based on the total dissipation of power, integrated over the lifetime of the cyclone, and show that this index has increased markedly since the mid-1970s. This trend is due to both longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities. I find that the record of net hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature, reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multi-decadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming. My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and—taking into account an increasing coastal population—a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century.
Phil Done says
Jen – re your editorial … the warming modelling says more intensity NOT numbers…
And have a look in your own region – Ingrid, Zoe, Nancy, Vance – how fast?
And separating out multi-decadal ocean oscillations is a serious issue for occurrence …. as well as El Nino/La Nina for positional locations
pls read your own blog posts on this issue….!!
Annoyed at your selectivity !!
Louis Hissink says
I was wondering whether Hurricane Katrina would be blamed on President Bush and so it has. Now who should be awarded the 2005 King Canute Award, (which Aaron and I tentatively started in 2004) be awarded to?
The King Canute Award is, of course, awarded to that individual who managed to assign to another human super-natural powers over nature.
So far it is the leader of the German Green Party.
Black belted feng-shui gurus Done+Ender may like to ponder the words of Chris Landsea expert on hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons and IPCC member;
“I found it a bit perplexing that the participants in the Harvard press conference had come to the conclusion that global warming was impacting hurricane activity today. To my knowledge, none of the participants in that press conference had performed any research on hurricane variability, nor were they reporting on any new work in the field. All previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend up in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin. The IPCC assessments in 1995 and 2001 also concluded that there was no global warming signal found in the hurricane record. ‘
“Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricane will likely be quite small. The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Knutson and Tuleya, Journal of Climate, 2004) suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st Century (Michaels, Knappenberger, and Landsea, Journal of Climate, 2005, submitted). ‘
“It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity. My view is that when people identify themselves as being associated with the IPCC and then make pronouncements far outside current scientific understandings that this will harm the credibility of climate change science and will in the longer term diminish our role in public policy.’
When Landsea expressed his concerns, he said, the IPCC simply brushed them aside. So Landsea left the IPCC, saying:
‘I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound’.
Phil Done says
Oh boo hoo … just like Christy wasn’t convinced either on the atmospheric data…. Emanuel Prof Meteorology at MIT who has published with Landsea has just released a new ground-breaking study in Nature. Emanuel has some considerable reputation in the field. Landsea isn’t convinced – that’s cool – science allows dissent. But where is his colleague wrong?
(1) I have not blamed Katrina on AGW
(2) I have not said more numbers in hurricanes
(3) Multi-decadal effects are confounding influences
(4) the physics of an intensity increase are quite reasonable but there are upper limits
(5) nobody seems to have noticed the exceptionally fast cyclones in our region recently (Ingrid, Zoe, Nancy, Vance)- just some circumstantial stuff to ponder
(6) as usual Rog – you’re totally dismissive
(7) you need to work out what 5% more intense means
(8) the jury is still out on trajectories – i.e. will cyclones come further down our coastline ?
(9) we’ve got some funny stuff going on with our cyclone region formation in Coral Sea – maybe a greenhouse/ozone interaction.
(10) Read the Emanuel paper !!!
All the above has been said before… in these hallowed blog ramblings…
The problem that you anti-AGW dudes have got is that it had better start cooling soon … the ducks just keep lining up in a row. I haven’t seen one single argument in this entire blog that’s convincing in the other direction. Despite that I still have uncertainties … but you are betting the entire farm here on there being nothing in it. As I have previously said 6.3 billion people now at risk – not a few 100000 in a stone age culture. Katrina – 1 million displaced, possibly thousands dead – and a first world western country who knew it was coming.
People get hurt seriously by droughts, floods, cyclones, storms, and heatwaves. We need to be cautious … and open minded at least to the possibilities.
rog – I also never said that Katrina was due to Global Warming and I do not believe that it is. What I will say is that most of the modelling that has been done, does indicate that with increased ocean warming there will be a chance of greater hurricane activity. It is not certain just a risk.
This idea of more tropical revolving storms is a very commonsense thing as TRSs are spawned from warm water (amongst other things) therefore it stands to reason that if the water gets warmer the risk of a TRS is higher and that might trigger more TRSs as the ocean heats due to AGW.
It also highlights that our society, despite all the technology in the world, is really totally helpless in the face of nature. I cannot imagine the suffering of the people in New Orleans and will not diminish it with inadequate platitudes however this was a first world city reduced to stone age conditions with one storm. Let us hope that AGW is wrong and this does not become commonplace.
Malcolm Hill says
You are all wrong of course, Katrina is Allah’s will extracting vengeance for all our supposed evils. If its not this then the GW alarmists are saying it is clear evidence of AGW and we should repent for our profligacy. One way or another religion is involved.
We at least Katrina was not a member of Al Qaida! (may allah be praised)
Nice contributions to the discussion Malcolm/Rog.
By the way, if anyone is interested, you can follow cyclone/typhoon/hurricane progress on this site:
Typhoon Talim just hit china, and Typhoon Nabi is heading for okinawa/southern japan. Nabi looks ominous, and may end up as strong as Katrina at some point, though is very unlikely to do as much damage, so I read on the site.
I think we need Tim Lambert to see if we have sock puppet problem here.
Oh-so sensitive greenie things might like to wrap their tiny brains around this data and then try to tell me that the storms to the US are increasing in intensity and/or frequency
Phil Done says
Try listening to this Rog
It will help !
P.S. Read the paper and what I have written in this thread … it might also help…. sigh …
P.P.S. you might need something a tad more definitive than the NOAA reference … nighty night sleep tight …
rog – I don’t think you have been reading and comprehending my posts. I did not say that TRS frequency HAS increased only that increased warming MAY in the future increase the frequency of TRSs.
Also your data is only for the USA which, last time I looked, not the whole world. I would be more interested in looking at the global TRS frequency rather than just one area.
Try this quick quiz, who said this?
*But hurricanes have intensified and will get stronger as sea temperature increase. Future of a globally warmed world is more intense tropical cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes.*
Phil Done says
yep was me … basis as Emanuel paper.
“potential destructiveness of hurricanes based on the total dissipation of power, integrated over the lifetime of the cyclone, and show that this index has increased markedly since the mid-1970s. This trend is due to both longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities….”
so your point is ?
Phillip Done says
For all – a very measured and well rounded article on global warming and hurricanes.
And of course says nobody can attribute Katrina to global warming – but all these sort of arguments are NOT really the question …
The future and our learnings from this tragedy are the next issue.
I commend it to you all …