What Hurricane Sandy tells us – why don’t we fix the damned roof?

hole roofby Afroswede

Sandy likely to be a multi-billion dollar disaster for the U.S.

[Via Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog]

Hurricane Sandy is holding its own against high wind shear of 30 – 40 knots, and has regained its Category 1 strength after falling to tropical storm strength early this morning. Sandy is a massive storm, with tropical storm-force winds that span a 660-mile diameter area of ocean from a point even with central Florida northwards to a point off the central North Carolina coast. Twelve-foot high seas cover a diameter of ocean 1,000 miles across.


This looks like a terrible storm. Unlike a tropical hurricane, with very high winds in a tightly packed area, hurricanes such a Sandy have high winds spread over a very large area. SImilarly, it can push a very large storm surge.

sandyfrom NOAA (Sandy and the cold front)

In addition, next week is a full moon, meaning tides are higher than normal. FInally, as you can see in the photo from last night, there is a cold front moving in. Lots of cold air hitting warm, most are means lots of rain and possible snow. (The other storm in the upper right is what is left of tropical storm Tony, now on its way into the upper Atlantic.)

This could be a real monster, possible more damaging than hurricane Irene which hit the same area just last year. That one may end up costing over  $19 billion total in the US.

Hurricane Irene is currently the 5th most damaging hurricane in US history. Sandy has the potential to do worse damage.

Have two such devastating hurricanes ever hit the upper East Coast in successive years? Not that I can find. What a rare event. Two extreme and expensive hurricanes hitting in successive years.

What are the odds?

I’ve written about the extreme weather events now hitting us and showed how they can demonstrate climate change – what were once very, very rare events have now become quite common.

Through September of this year, we have had 10 billion dollar events (all amounts have been adjusted to 2012 dollars). We are about to add another. This is more than any other year examined except for last year.

Last year we had 14 billion dollar events, something that would have been unthinkable 25 years ago. Then, the chance of having 14 events like we had was so small that it would not have happened in the entire time the Earth has been in existence.

The chance of having 11 such events would be something like 1 in 400,000. That is how extreme the last two years have been.

Even if we work from the average of the last decade, last year’s extreme number should only happen once every hundred years.

Yet, now we are having another supposed to be rare year.Two of these rarities right after one another. What are the odds? Under normal circumstances, the chances of these rare years happening right after one another would not  be expected to happen once in  the entire time the Universe has existed. We must be living through one of the most amazing times for weather events.

Or is climate change taking what were once very, very rare events and making them happen much more often? Data suggests that global warming has affected the chances of extreme weather events such that what used to be a once in a century event might happen once in 5 years.

That is how we can tell that climate change is having an effect – very rare events become common.

So far there has been about $30 billion in damage to the US in 2012. If Sandy is as bad as Irene, we would be up to about $50 billion with two months left. Last year we saw over $70 billion in weather related damages.

In 2010, we saw $60 billion.

Just the US is suffering $50-70 billion in damage a year due to weather events. Damage that has to be fixed with money we really do not have. How much would it cost to deal with global warming by reducing our use of carbon based fuels?

About $50 billion a year.

The smart thing to do when a leaky roof causes thousands of dollars of damage in your house is to fix the roof. You do not buy a new carpet after every rain! Only an idiot would do that.

Yet we do that every year – replace the damaged carpet.

Why don’t we fix the damn roof?