Saturday, October 27, 2012

I'm Not A Climatologist, But Frankenstorm Sandy is A-Coming!

I am not a climatologist, nor do I play one on TV.  However, it doesn't take a climate scientist or a rocket scientist to know that we on the US East Coast have a doozy of a storm coming our way.  Hurricane Sandy, still a few days away, already holds hope and promise of being one for the books.
My history of hurricanes goes back, and (just like the winds and wetness of a hurricane) keeps swirling back:

  My wedding got rerouted 24 hours before "I do's" given 1999's Hurricane Floyd hitting Maryland, knocking out power of the venue where my husband and I had planned to get married/have the reception.

  I lived in Florida from 2001 to 2007, where we had a string of some nasty named storms, but we were lucky enough to escape all major hits. We put out sandbags, we boarded the house, we saw the water rise on the streets and the trees bend like twigs. We traveled to family on the other, drier Florida coast, and for one storm in 2005 I even bolted to my folks in Illinois--assured that it would be "3rd time's the charm!" that season.  Again we lucked out.

  This weekend, I have books on desks and everything "up" in my classroom, as do others in my Magothy River-edged school. Sandbags school-wide to follow. With my classroom being the closest to the shoreline, I'm not taking any chances. (Especially when I know that the storm surge of Hurricane Isabel in 2003 hit at high tide, putting the water level above the 5-foot dockside fence. Yes, I'm fearing the prediction that history may well be repeating itself here with Hurricane Sandy.)

I'm not a climatologist, but I read the news.  I know that this is predicted to be a "Frankenstorm" as it seems to have all the elements of multiple storm systems coming together simultaneously, with a cold front potentially stalling it, which will prolong the effects.

I'm not a climatologist, but I AM an environmental educator at a Maryland "Green" School who has read a number of books and articles on planetary climate change.  A great quote, especially on this storm is from Climate Science Watch's Jordan Nichols:
"To adapt a famous quote on another subject: you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you. While both presidential candidates and moderators of the debates have taken criticism for avoiding the subject of climate change, it may not be that easy for residents on the U.S. East Coast to avoid the effects of the 'Frankenstorm' -- Hurricane Sandy.... It seems Mother Nature is sending us a message. It’s almost as if Mother Nature trying to tell us something, 'you can ignore climate change all you want, but its not going away.'”
 I find Nichols' commentary fascinating--if not humorous--here on the cusp of the election.  It's a good article--you need to read it!!

It led me to wondering, and conducting my own research.  I went to the NOAA site and found a list of the number of named storms since data recording started in 1851.  They have a nice chart, which I then adapted to the following chart, grouping the data by decades and averaging it out. (Click on it to enlarge it).

I then used my above "Storm Chart by Decade" data to make a graph with one of my favorite kid-friendly graph sites:  Create a Graph.  Like I said, I'm not a climatologist, but the trend between number of  named storms, number of hurricanes, and number of major hurricanes is clearly visible, with the last 20 years being the highest on the graph in 2 of the 3 categories.  Middle elementary and older students could do the same activity, and chart their own, same results!

I'm not a climatologist, but Nichols' article is consistent with much of the other climate change information out there:  the warmer our planet gets, the warmer our ocean waters get, which makes it ripe for more (and more severe) weather events such as hurricanes.  Another quote from Nichols' Climate Science Watch article:
"Using data from storm surges, the 'abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above predicted astronomical tides,' Grinsted now had data from as far back as the 1920s. What did they find? 'Using surges as an indicator we see an increase in all magnitudes of storms when ocean temperatures are warmer,' according to Michael D. Lemonick of Climate Central."
As Nichols states in his closing:
"Our climate is changing; this is now more painfully obvious than ever. Recent studies suggest that the majority of the coasts in the United States are vulnerable to rising seas due to climate change. The signs and warnings are very clear, but there is no sense of urgency to prepare for our impending climate 50 years from now. The United States has fallen behind on this front, while other countries are planning for the future....The seas will rise, whether we believe in climate change or not, so we must adapt and prepare. What we need is political leadership to start talking about climate change again, no matter whether it’s an election year or not. Time is running out on preventive action, while the 'Frankenstorm' draws nearer."
View outside my classroom door.
It's been said before (many a-time)--I am not a climatologist. But my question is this:  Do I need to be when these are the reports that are out there?  Seems like all I need to be is an informed voter, an educated "educator," and a girl who needs to batten down the hatches, because (ready or not), Frankenstorm Sandy is going to rear her ugly head!

Hurricane Sandy projection map from; photos from my camera of hurricanes past and near present, Table data adapted from, and graph created using the table data here and the Create A Graph website (

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