John Colson: Irma and Jose — a glimpse at our future?
Hit & Run
Hurricane Irma, it appears, has left Florida gasping and trying to stand again, even as I write this, early Monday, Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, the threat of a following storm, Hurricane Jose, apparently was diminishing as the storm weakened Monday.
Apropos of just about nothing, I had a girlfriend once whose nickname was Irma, but she wasn’t nearly as surly or as destructive as the nasty storm of the same name that continues to pound the northern portion of Sunshine State.
Like the storm, though, she ultimately wandered out of my life (or was it I who wandered out of hers?), moving on to trouble other hearts and souls with her teasing ways and mighty tantrums, just as the downgraded Tropical Storm Irma is moving on and threatens to flood the bejesus out of Florida’s northern neighbor states.
Of course, the current state of affairs in much of the southeastern U.S. will not be fully known for a matter of days, as some of the northern-Florida cities are still being stomped by winds and rain, and some on Florida’s Gulf Coast were being warned as of Monday morning that there might be residual storm surges still to come.
But the worst of Irma’s force and feistiness appeared to have abated by Monday.
It was mighty strange to watch coverage of Irma’s path of destruction over the weekend and into Monday, and then it was moderately unsettling to see the talking news heads switch back and forth between the storm and coverage of the 9/11 memorials in Washington, D.C., New York City and an otherwise unremarkable field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The juxtaposition was kind of chilling — the aftermath of two storms, one a natural phenomenon born of warming ocean waters, the other a sociopolitical event brought on by what has all the appearance of a worldwide battle between the more rapacious elements of vastly different cultures.
The cumulative deaths from the 9/11 attacks (nearly 3,000 people), of course, dwarfed the death toll left by Irma (reported to be about 30 as of Monday morning), and there was no attempt by news anchors and reporters to try to draw any sort of comparative analysis between the two gruesome statistics.
Instead, the television crews solemnly recorded President Donald Trump’s laying of the wreath at Arlington Cemetery in honor of the 9/11 dead, even as the mayors and disaster responders of Florida tried to calm their constituents’ fears and anguish as much as they could.
It is worth noting that news agencies are reporting that this is the first time in the nation’s history that two Category 4 storms have visited the U.S. mainland in one storm season, which climate scientists confirmed was just the kind of thing they have been predicting as a consequence of global warming.
Wait, did I just mention global warming in the same breath as intensifying hurricanes?
Well yes, I did, and I will continue to voice this heretical notion, particularly if we get walloped by yet another big-bore hurricane before this current storm season ends. Jose, as you many know already, had reached Category 4 status by the end of last week, but was downgraded to Category 3 as it veered northward and, as of Monday, seemed to be circling around in the Atlantic to the east of the Leeward Islands and the Bahamas.
Still, according to some forecasters, Jose may very well find its footing at some point, come out from under the trailing high-pressure zone left in Irma’s wake, and could still head for Florida or some point to the north.
Whether it will strengthen to a Category 4 again, nobody was willing to predict as of Monday morning.
I mentioned earlier that most scientists believe we will continue to see stronger and stronger cyclonic storms born out of the world’s two great oceans, though the Atlantic storms loom larger in our national psyche because those are the ones that have the potential to wreak far greater havoc on our shores.
The reason for this, the scientists say, is that the oceans are warming rapidly (in geological terms), which creates exactly the kind of conditions that make for bigger, nastier hurricanes.
And while the overall reasons for global warming are the fodder for political debates that generate their own kind of hot air and turbulence, for me it is undeniable that the human race’s addiction to burning fossil fuels to power our lifestyle is only making the situation much worse than anything nature alone might be doing.
The climate deniers, as they are known, are very deliberately refusing to buy this argument, though they offer nothing in the way of a counter argument to explain why storms all over the world are getting stronger and more destructive.
Only last week, there was a thread of emails in a local community Google group that showed more than a dozen parts of the globe where bad weather was flooding countrysides and forcing millions from their homes.
“The Earth is pissed,” was the textual statement of one contributor to this thread of images and commentary, and I think that pretty much sums it up.
What the Earth might throw at us next, of course, remains to be seen.
But those of us who believe the scientists — and fear that our use of fossil fuels is leading us toward a very dangerous future — would greatly appreciate it if the deniers would pull their heads out of whatever dark hole they’re in and realize we need to do something quickly or we’re going to do the way of the dodo birds.
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