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Hurricane Rita is now the third most powerful in recorded history
September 22, 2005 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Wasting away in Ritaville
Might as well start the deluge of Rita posts with this one. Rita is the most intense storm to threaten the US since Gilbert in 1988 and it threatens Galveston Bay directly. In direct path of the storm are oil refineries processing over two million barrels of oil a day which is 26 percent of the US refining capacity. In addition the area expected to be hit (pdf) by a potential twenty-two foot storm surge has a higher population than New Orleans.

This storm has caused an unprecedented evacuation of the southern parts of Houston. Interstate 45 has been opened in both directions to north-bound traffic for the first time ever. Tales of twelve to sixteen hour drives to outlying cities are common.

One of the blogs I read daily posted this morning that it is likely he will lose his house in twelve-plus feet of water. I left Houston last night and am staying with friends in Austin now, well out of the way of the storm. Other tales are sure to come.

Will the lessons of Katrina help Houston to recover from the storm? Will the response from FEMA be better because of the heat from Katrina or will the Republican voting area and Tom DeLay's district factor into the relief effort?
posted by DragonBoy (135 comments total)

 
This is actualy the second post on Rita.
posted by delmoi at 7:46 AM on September 22, 2005


I would just like to point out before this becomes the best thing to happen to Bush's approval rating since 9/11 (when people are evacuated properly, a city is decimated, and everyone was already gone) the following important fact:

George Bush had nothing to do with Texas being evacuated properly. It also cannot be entirely to do with Texas being way more mobile and active than Louisiana as far as local governments. The "See? Texas did just fine. Blame Louisiana for NO" argument will not fly.

Bottom line: The whole nation saw what happened and how totally inept the federal and local governments were at minimizing the disaster from Katrina. This and almost entirely this is the reason that this next hurricane will have less of a human toll. I will not accept anyone's argument that this is proof of Louisiana government being to blame because "see? Texas did just fine".

This will be the right wing party line, and it will be the Bush administration's last chance to increase approval. will the public buy it or not? Or am I wrong, and a ton of people won't evacuate this time either, and it will be just as bad? I think the former.
posted by twiggy at 7:48 AM on September 22, 2005


By the way. I mean I don't follow hurricanes all that much, but it seems like Rita whent from a cat-1 to a cat-5 in like a day and a half. Now it's the 3rd most powerful storm ever? (displacing Katrina, which had a similar history?)

Just how hot is the gulf of mexico this year?
posted by delmoi at 7:49 AM on September 22, 2005


The Oil Drum has some good insider technical info on the impacts.
posted by stbalbach at 7:51 AM on September 22, 2005


I will not accept anyone's argument that this is proof of Louisiana government being to blame because "see? Texas did just fine".

I think most people understand that this hurricane will be much better handled then the last one.
posted by delmoi at 7:53 AM on September 22, 2005


Don't worry, Tom Delay will get his house rebuilt... and it is going to be a fantastic house.
posted by cusack at 7:55 AM on September 22, 2005


I'm nowhere near any of the three major freeways that are the major escape routes out of Houston, and have to rely on the tollway to get me to one of them. Unfortunately, the TXDOT isn't contraflowing the tollways. I tried to get out about 4 o'clock this morning--couldn't even get on the tollway, so I stayed on the feeders and moved about 4 miles in 3.5 hours. At that rate, I would hit the I-10 in about 12 hours, with a long journey ahead of me and an uncertain gas situation (some people had put their cars in neutral, turned off the engine and were pushing their vehicles at 1 MPH). So I turned around and came back home. I'll try again if they open up all the beltway lanes. The evacuation's being handled smoothly and in a relatively orderly fashion, but Houston's freeway system can't keep up with its own traffic demands, much less emergency traffic flow like this. It has ever been thus, or at least for the last twenty five years.

On the other hand, Rita's moved eastward significantly in the last 12 hours. If she keeps up that kind of eastward movement Houston will dodge a major bullet. Selfishly, I think it would be better for the storm to hit an already-devastated area rather than to strike--and devastate--an entirely new area.

on preview: Of course this hurricane will be much better handled, if only by dint of fact that Houston averages 50 feet above sea level. We don't have to worry about levees, just bayous. I'm far more concerned at this point with wind than I am with water/flooding.
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:56 AM on September 22, 2005


If anything, expect Bush to grossly overreact and militarize the whole area. Question is, if people were asking how Bush is going to pay for the reconstruction of Louisiana and Mississippi, how's it going to look when we have to fit Texas in too?
posted by fungible at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2005


I just hate to think that somewhere in DC some wonk is rubbing their mits together gleefully thinking, "How lucky we are to have several million dollars of property damage and risk to life so soon after Katrina."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:58 AM on September 22, 2005


A couple of points.

First, New Orleans had several problems that Texas doesn't, the biggest one being that all of the evacuation routes (and the routes to get help back in) of New Orleans were likely to be the first things to flood. Of the cities in the path of Rita, it's my understanding that Galveston is in a similar situation (mostly because it's in a really dumb location) but the rest of the Texas coast has viable escape routes.

I think the Bush administration really can't win here. If no white people die because of this hurricane black people are just going to say "We told you so.", but if he doesn't help the white people they aren't going to sit around saying "See he cares just as much about us as the black people." they're going to say "George Bush is a *$#(#*%*^."
posted by jefeweiss at 8:00 AM on September 22, 2005


"No one can say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided." - George W. Bush

Popcorn, anyone?
posted by cleardawn at 8:00 AM on September 22, 2005


"George Bush had nothing to do with Texas being evacuated properly."

No, but apparently had everything to do with Lousianna not being evacuated properly....make up your mind kids. This hurricane will be better prepared for simply for the fact the Katrina thing was such a disaster. Republican, Democrat - whatever; it's a moot point. But this is Mefi so....
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:01 AM on September 22, 2005


Another hurricane! In the hurricane season? Surely not!
posted by DrDoberman at 8:02 AM on September 22, 2005



posted by Edible Energy at 8:03 AM on September 22, 2005


on preview - it sure looks from the images that Rita is moving in more of a northerly direction. I don't think Galveston is going to get primary impact but right now, it sure doesn't look good for those levies in N.O. I sure hope everyone is at a safe distance from this thing.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:03 AM on September 22, 2005


I think the Bush administration really can't win here. If no white people die because of this hurricane black people are just going to say "We told you so.", but if he doesn't help the white people they aren't going to sit around saying "See he cares just as much about us as the black people." they're going to say "George Bush is a *$#(#*%*^."

I think it's more of an issue of 'texas' vs. 'not texas'. I'm sure things will go smootly there, in fact I'm willing to bet the entire federal and state response are fully formed at the moment.
posted by delmoi at 8:04 AM on September 22, 2005


The hurricane watches/warnings are saying that it'll likely weaken to a Cat 4 or even 3 by the time it makes landfall.
posted by danb at 8:06 AM on September 22, 2005


it seems like Rita whent from a cat-1 to a cat-5 in like a day and a half. Now it's the 3rd most powerful storm ever? (displacing Katrina, which had a similar history?)Just how hot is the gulf of mexico this year?

I watched a fascinating show on The Discovery Channel about how hurricanes form a few weeks ago. According to the show, an increase of as little of 1/2 of a degree can strengthen a hurricane a great amount. However, a lot more than water temperature can effect the strength of a hurricane. You can see video clips from the show here. More on conditions for hurricane formation here.
posted by geeky at 8:10 AM on September 22, 2005


Just how hot is the gulf of mexico this year?

delmoi, at the time Rita was thrashing the Keys, the water in the Gulf of Mexico was averaging at 87 degrees farenheit. the weather analysts i've heard on the television have said that's only slightly warmer than normal.

worth noting: that temperature applies to the center of the Gulf. the waters closer to Texas' coastline are a bit cooler, probably around 82-84 degrees.
posted by NationalKato at 8:13 AM on September 22, 2005


Good Luck wolfdaddy, be safe brother.
Same to the rest of you out there in the way. I'm going down to NO in early october with my moms to see what we can pull out of her house, I feel very acutely what you are going through.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:14 AM on September 22, 2005


Rita is the most intense storm to threaten the US since Gilbert in 1988

Wasn't Hugo a Cat-5?
posted by alumshubby at 8:20 AM on September 22, 2005


FWIW, my mom returned from Mississippi last week after spending a week and a half there volunteering her GIS skills. FEMA officials were in some counties before Katrina made landfall, but there was so much bickering between various local officials that not much got done.

The general consensus was that the recovery, if not the preperations, should have been federalized immediately.

As much as this administration likes to make "bold" choices about things like Social Security, moral issues, wars, etc., their response to Katrina was pathetic. They could have done what needed to be done, but didn't want to pay the political price of declaring insurrection, overriding imcompetent/overwhelemd local officials, so on.

I doubt they're going to make that mistake again.
posted by kableh at 8:23 AM on September 22, 2005


Thanks Wino, I appreciate that.

Also, should have said that Rita's turned more NNWesterly ... it's the projections that keep moving eastward as far as landfall's concerned. Each new update from NOAA puts Rita's landfall more towards the TX-LA border. I'm starting to feel less panic-y than I had earlier this morning when I got myself out of the gridlock and came back home.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:24 AM on September 22, 2005


Johnny on the spot. (Shock, EB, I found 'em myself.)
posted by postmodernmillie at 8:26 AM on September 22, 2005


Don't assume all will be well in Austin, Dragonboy. During Carla in 1961 the house across the street from us in Terrytown had a tree knocked down - While it will definitely miss the storm surge, if Rita comes across as predicted there may be significant wind damage inland.
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:28 AM on September 22, 2005


if people were asking how Bush is going to pay for the reconstruction of Louisiana and Mississippi, how's it going to look when we have to fit Texas in too?

Easy. Just invade it, seize the oil, and the operation will pay for itself. How can this plan fail?

That image of Rita is interesting. I found this representation of 1979's Typhoon Tip, apparently the strongest depression (870 mbar) on record:



From the image, Rita is giving it a bit of a run for its money.
posted by meehawl at 8:43 AM on September 22, 2005


twiggy: hear hear.

As far as Bush's approval ratings:

I saw a documentary the other day that claimed that evangelical christians (read: born agains and followers of fallwell, et al.) are approaching 50% of the people who register to vote.

I find this hard to believe, and hope that I misunderstood the claim. Even so, one of the things that needs to be understood is that, while it doesn't mean he's a non-issue, Bush's approval ratings aren't even what need to be worried about in 2008. If this ruins the remainder of his term and the whole country hates him, the republicans will just abandon him and put some other highly evangelically christian puppet in the 2008 race. It's what works.
posted by shmegegge at 8:45 AM on September 22, 2005


The Katrina thing has been inept at every level, from local to Federal. Hopefully we'll learn something from it. (like, say, not voting for incompetent people, but perhaps I ask for too much.)

It's very unlikely that there's gonna be anywhere near the problem in Texas that there was in NO, simply because the cities there aren't under sea level. If we don't respond quickly there, well, folks may be unhappy, but they're probably not going to die from neglect.

Plus, of course, FEMA is all mobilized now, so moving to Texas won't be that difficult.

I'm sure Texas will be just fine, and I bet the death toll is lower than any other big hurricane on record, simply because folks are VERY VERY aware of just how bad a hurricane can be, and they're working hard on getting the heck out.

There's nothing quite like seeing floating corpses two weeks prior to get folks moving.
posted by Malor at 8:49 AM on September 22, 2005


meehawl: Holy crap! I'd never heard of Tip before.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:52 AM on September 22, 2005


Don't assume all will be well in Austin

I see the Austin City Limits Festival still seems to be on.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2005


Perhaps President Bush will sign the Kyoto Treaty now that his father's airport is under seige. (George H. W. Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston)
posted by Chris_awesome at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2005


I think it's also interesting that the Gulf is so very warm this year... which I read probably IS about global warming. Rita went from Category 1 to Category 4 in, geeze, six hours? Katrina was very similar.

From what I was reading, the Gulf is so warm this year because some ice shelf never formed last winter, so it didn't melt and cool things down. (I hope I understood that right... the Gulf is an awfully long way from the poles.)

The NUMBER of hurricanes this year, in other words, may be simply from the long-term cycle, but their INTENSITY has a very good chance of being our fault.
posted by Malor at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2005


Wolfdaddy, when are you going to try to get out again? (if you are...)
posted by Cyrano at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2005


alumshubby: "Rita is the most intense storm to threaten the US since Gilbert in 1988

Wasn't Hugo a Cat-5?
"


"Intensity" generally means the lowness of the pressure. The most intense Atlantic hurricanes ever:

1) Gilbert (1988) - 888 hPa
2) "Labor Day" (1935) - 892 hPa
3) Rita (2005) - 897 hPa
4) Allen (1980) - 899 hPa
5) Katrina (2005) - 902 hPa
posted by Plutor at 8:59 AM on September 22, 2005


Plutor, is "hPa" the same as "MB"? The latest advisory from NOAA says Rita is at "907MB"
posted by gwint at 9:06 AM on September 22, 2005


Cyrano, I'm not sure at this point. My neighborhood is very quiet at the moment...there's hardly any road traffic and all you can hear is the occasional sound of people hammering plywood over their windows. Most of the tenants in my complex have left. I'm keeping a close watch on traffic reports and will plan accordingly. If the tollway opens up all its lanes to one-way traffic, I'll definitely take off. Otherwise, I'm stocked up and good to go.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:06 AM on September 22, 2005


Who kidnapped all the girls between Katrina and Rita huh? That's the real story.

WolfDaddy...all the best mate.
posted by peacay at 9:10 AM on September 22, 2005


Just how hot is the gulf of mexico this year?

I wrote about this yesterday with "Can we call it 'Global Warming' yet?"

Every year, the Odden ice shelf forms during the deep cold of the arctic winter, and grows into the Greenland Sea. As winter turns to spring, and then summer, the Odden ice shelf melts. This super-cooled water goes to the bottom of the Atlantic. The movement of so much water, of such varying temperature, helps drive the Gulf Stream--which keeps Europe from freezing, and keeps the Gulf from boiling.

The problem is, this year, the Odden ice shelf never really formed. The arctic is becoming warmer, as scientists predicted would be the first and most obvious sign of global warming. Having never formed, it could hardly melt. The Gulf Stream has slowed down considerably. The hot water has remained in the Gulf, and Europe is facing a very bitter winter.


So, the Gulf's now seeing surface temps in the mid-80s along the coasts, and I swear I saw some mid-90's on a map recently.
posted by jefgodesky at 9:11 AM on September 22, 2005


the Gulf's now seeing surface temps in the mid-80s along the coasts

Surface temperatures correlate very badly with any long-term global warming or cooling trends. They are epiphenomenal. It's the deep water temps you've got to watch. Especially with all the hydrates...
posted by meehawl at 9:21 AM on September 22, 2005


All the best to anyone in the way of Rita. Be safe. If you can leave, please do.

I'd be surprised if Texas suffers to the same extent as LO and MI - after all, Texas is the home state of Bush.
posted by tomcosgrave at 9:24 AM on September 22, 2005


Sounds about like my plan, WolfDaddy. My parents want me to come and ride it out with them in Kingwood (far north Houston) if it comes to that. I was able to get there pretty easily at about 10:00 last night (but the beltway was clear except around the major exits and I know a few shortcuts) so I could pick up two more cat carriers to accommodate my three beasts whatever may happen. But I live in Alief (far-ish west Houston) and we're pretty much going to get the same storm the way I figure it. I'm not at flood risk, but like you it's the winds that worry me. If [mythical being of choice] came down and told me that my roof would for sure stay on, I'd have no problem riding it out. But I'm still waiting for his/her/it's visit.
posted by Cyrano at 9:25 AM on September 22, 2005


Wolfdaddy: Where do you live in Houston? My parents are waiting until 3 pm today to make a final determination of what to do (exit city or go to much much more secure concrete high-rise of friend inside city), primarily because the roads are so completely congested where they live (NW Houston, near Jersey Village, if that means anything to you).
posted by Bugbread at 9:28 AM on September 22, 2005


Yes, hPa (hectopascals) and mb (millibars) are one and the same. Typhoon Tip is a legend among meteorologists, but the hurricane machine our ultra-warm Gulf of Mexico has become this year is truly historic as well.

I don't think it's even possible to get a storm as big as Tip in the Gulf, due to the sheer vastness of the Pacific.
posted by gazole at 9:34 AM on September 22, 2005


According to current local TV, the interstates still have not yet been contra-flowed; there's a hundred miles of bumper to bumper on I-45 northbound. One of the TV stations had a guy call in this morning, stuck on 45 in northern Houston; he'd traveled 40 miles or so in over 10 hours.
I'm camped out refugeeing in Houston, but north of I-10 & west of I-45, so with the storm now set to make landfall roundabout High Island east of here, I'm not figuring to be going anywhere. Yesterday it was a different story, and may be a different story tonight.

Wolfdaddy and anyone else who may try to get out of Houston in the next 24 hours, I recommend you get out your map and look for roads more or less paralell to the interstate. I refugeed out of New Orleans on 8/28; took 9 hours to get 90 miles on Highway 90 to Morgan City. After that the traffic cleared out and speeds ranged pretty much between 20 and 45. At New Iberia I left the pack, didn't head on up 90 to hit I-10 at Lafayette, instead took LA 14 west and ran roads paralell to 10 most of the way to Lake Charles. These roads were empty; I was making 60 mph out side of the small towns and could hit 75 on some stretches. I did get stupid at one point and got on I-10; speed was 0 to 40 mph, I got off at the next exit and back onto the paralell (there, Highway 90) and was back to cruising at 60.
posted by custis at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2005



You can watch the gas prices here, which also has a view of the path of Katrina overlayed with the various instrastructre in the Gulf. (Nothing on Rita yet...)
posted by fluffycreature at 10:00 AM on September 22, 2005


I've been advising my parents of the same: back country roads may be windy and have low (35 mph) speed limits, but a windy 35 mph scenic road will get you further away than a straight artery road moving at 10 mph, as well as saving gas and being almost infinitely less stressful (you can actually feel yourself getting away from the storm, instead of fuming at how you're stuck on a highway).
posted by Bugbread at 10:02 AM on September 22, 2005


The turn to the north is worrying, because the waters of the western Gulf are cooler. If Rita heads west, she won't be able to maintain strength. However, if she heads north, she'll stay over the very warm Loop Current.

It looks like an eyewall replacement cycle is happening now -- which is bad. You want them to happen just before landfall. The eye is concentric, one at 17nm, one at 50nm, and is listed as "open SE", but I don't know which eyewall isn't complete (probably the inner one that is now forming.)

Pressure has come up to 917MB -- still a very, very intense hurricane.

Typhoon Tip is a legend, and was "worst" in many categories -- wind strength, central pressure, and sheer physical size. The central dense overcast (the pinwheel of clouds) had a diameter of over 1300 miles, and tropical force winds ranged out to 675 miles from center. Wikipedia has an image showing the largest and smallest typhoons, against the US.

Don't discount Typhoon Tracy -- she may have been small, but she had a punch, and was near Category Five, despite 50kt winds extending only 30 miles from center. She hit Darwin, Australia square on Christmas Eve, 1974 -- and didn't leave much standing.
posted by eriko at 10:07 AM on September 22, 2005


"Lovely Rita hurricane, nothing can come between us..."

Glad I'm not the only one thought of that little lyrical edit.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:08 AM on September 22, 2005


I think it's also interesting that the Gulf is so very warm this year... which I read probably IS about global warming. Rita went from Category 1 to Category 4 in, geeze, six hours? Katrina was very similar.

From what I was reading, the Gulf is so warm this year because some ice shelf never formed last winter, so it didn't melt and cool things down. (I hope I understood that right... the Gulf is an awfully long way from the poles.)


Oh, christ. Not the "Oh noes! Teh global warming!"...

Ok, there's half a dozen things that went into making the gulf warm. First, we had a warm winter. That's not anything abnormal. Second, we're in an 1800 year increasing sun intensity cycle that started sometime in the late 1700's. Third, there was a drought for the past four years in the mississippi basin, which has caused the water temperatures in the mississippi to be warmer than ever. Fourth, we're at the peak of two weather cycles (9 year and something else) that both create favorable conditions for superhurricane development.

Please stop spouting the big, simple answer. It sounds great when discussed on NPR, but it makes you sound really clueless and not far from downright stupid when -you- say it.

Hurricaine weather, by the way, will be similar or worse at times over the next couple of decades. Switching to a car that runs on ear wax and other unwanted bodily fluids isn't going to help anything 'cept your reputation among your granola-crunching friends, because there's some natural cycles that even we haven't managed to upset that are currently running on schedule. And how quickly, generation-wise, we forget that we have indeed had worse storms and worse years in our grandparents times...

And of course Katrina was similar. They formed in the same year, from the same kind of low, on almost the same track, with similar water temperatures in the gulf, and similar ancillary weather conditions to the north and west. Duh?

And yes, Rita went from a TS to a cat5 within a couple of days. The NHC said it'd become a cat3 in the gulf, which is what their computer models predicted. The weather witches I know (who aren't afraid to be wrong) looked at the satellite images, saw how fast the pressure was dropping in the eye and the indications of surface winds after it crossed the keys, and said, "Uh, this one's gonna go cat5." They'd been watching Rita since she was 96L off the north coast of South America. I told my friends as far inland as college station to seek larger, sturdier buildings for this weekend as of Tuesday AM, and friends in the Houston area to just get the eff out that night.
posted by SpecialK at 10:31 AM on September 22, 2005


Global warming cause of intense hurricanes?
"Ocean temperature could be the factor behind the record season." [NBC Nightly News | Sept. 21, 2005].
posted by ericb at 10:34 AM on September 22, 2005


Switching to a car that runs on ear wax and other unwanted bodily fluids isn't going to help anything 'cept your reputation among your granola-crunching friends

Well, there's no point in reading the rest of that comment.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:34 AM on September 22, 2005


/ot shmegegge, not to nitpick or anything, but the Republicans are going to be "abandoning" W whether they want to or not, since (as of this writing at least) there is a Constitutional amendment barring a US president from serving more than 2 terms. So while it may behoove us to be nervous about the increase in evangelical Christian voters, that particular point is moot./ot

Of course the response to this hurricane is going to be better than Katrina, because the troops (so to speak) are already mobilized, and we have a fresh reminder of what happens when we're caught unprepared. I don't think the fact that it's Texas has much to do with it. In any case, MeFi Texans in the path, goodwill and best wishes your way.
posted by jennaratrix at 10:37 AM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK: Can you point to a few links with info on these weather cycles you reference? The first google hit links to a book that starts "Weather Cycles: Real or Imaginary? explores in detail the unresolved debate on the existence of weather cycles." I'm not discounting your post, just looking to educate myself. Thanks.
posted by gwint at 10:41 AM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK: You're quite right that other factors are involved, like the 40-year, multi-decadal cycle of the northern Atlantic. There is definitely a cycle of regular hurricane intensity. But, as the Emmanuel 2005 paper showed, what we're seeing now is far beyond that:

From Emmanuel 2005
posted by jefgodesky at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK, I SAID THAT. The number of hurricanes has little to do with warming, and there are large cycles involved. I explicitly said that. But the intensity of the hurricanes we do have very well MAY be... the very warm gulf appears to be caused, at least in part, by the lack of that melting ice up north.

Yes, there may be other causes. Asserting that I am stupid, however, for pointing out one cause that almost certainly IS under our control is rude.

NPR tends to be pretty darn knowledgeable, and they do pretty good research on most of their stuff. They're probably the best news left in the US. If they're making global warming claims, then, gee, maybe they did better research than you did.

jefgodesky: I was probably repeating what you said yesterday. Thank you very much for posting it.... and reminding me of the source, I had no idea where I'd heard it. Should have figured it would be here. :)
posted by Malor at 10:44 AM on September 22, 2005


It's true that global warming could have nothing to do with these hurricanes. It's also quite possible that 95% of scientists are wrong, and global warming is just bunk.

The question is, why are we taking that chance?

It can't be economics. There's lots of money to be made in alternative fuels and pollution-cutting technology. (Look at the waiting list to buy hybrids.) Many American cities, frustrated by the lack of leadership in Washington, have signed on to the Kyoto protocols without any major economic repercussions. (I've been reading a lot about Portland in particular.)

So I guess we're just lazy.
posted by fungible at 10:51 AM on September 22, 2005


It's the deep water temps you've got to watch. Especially with all the hydrates...
posted by meehawl at 9:21 AM PST on September 22 [!]


I suspect most people aren't aware what this actually means. Let me summarize:

It has been discovered that there are massive beds of methane ice at the bottom of the oceans. If (when?) they melt, we are fucked.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 AM on September 22, 2005


"95% of scientists are wrong"

Got a citation for that?
posted by mischief at 11:05 AM on September 22, 2005


Yes, there may be other causes. Asserting that I am stupid, however, for pointing out one cause that almost certainly IS under our control is rude.

Ok, so how do you explain the drop in activity (new lows, actually) during the 70's and 80's that happened before anyone had even really considered restricting emissions of internal combustion engines? Don't forget, we'd been dumping hydrocarbons into the atmosphere for at least a hundred years by that point, between coal power plants and everything else...

Yes, I know that we've increased emissions exponentially since the 80's as the rest of the world has industrialized. My point, though, is that there's no correlation for the reduced tropical cyclone data in the 70's and 80's if you accept the hypothesis that emissions from burning hydrocarbons is what's causing the increased hurricane activity. A much likelier hypothesis (albeit one without enough data behind it, and which is therefore harder to discuss) is that we're seeing a part of a larger weather cycle or a combination of several weather cycles that we lack the data to correlate with the current weather activity.

My point, which sonsofsamiam so kindly pointed out as incendiary, is that there's no logic behind the "global warming" argument except for the "globally conscious/conservation" movement's need for environmental self-flagellation.

That being said, I drive a fuel-efficient japanese car, walk or bicycle when I can, help clean up areas with environmental problems, and eat mostly natural, vegetarian food. I do those things because I like doing them for me, not because I think it'll help the rest of the world. I just don't believe in what I see as urban myths and will always argue against things I don't see as logical.
posted by SpecialK at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2005


Bush Compares Responses to Hurricane, Terrorism
"Mr. Bush said he had been 'thinking a lot' about the comparisons between the response to the attacks in New York and Washington, and the storm devastation. 'We look at the destruction caused by Katrina, and our hearts break,' he said. Turning the subject to terrorists, he said: 'They're the kind of people who look at Katrina and wish they had caused it. We're in a war against these people.'" [New York Times | September 22, 2005]
How soon before he links 9/11, WMD, Iraq and the "t'rrists" with hurricanes? Oh, um, wait.
posted by ericb at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2005


cyrano, bugbread, I'm in Sharpstown, southwest Houston (I went to Alief Middle School, cyrano, and would have gone to Dulles High School had my family not moved to New Mexico :-)

I'm still considering alternate methods of escape, in fact may take the US 59 heading TOWARD the storm going southwest rather thand due west like I-10, and then cut over and head due north, crossing the I-10 at Columbus and then from there to La Grange.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:07 AM on September 22, 2005


"My point, which sonsofsamiam so kindly pointed out as incendiary, is that there's no logic behind the 'global warming' argument except for the 'globally conscious/conservation' movement's need for environmental self-flagellation."

Except that there is some very good logic behind it--it's been published in Nature, there must be at least some logic to it. Most cimatologists seem to agree at this point that global warming will increase the intensity of hurricanes, and thus the frequency of major hurricanes. Hurricanes intensify because of warm water--a warmer globe would mean warmer water. Where is there a lack of logic in that?
posted by jefgodesky at 11:10 AM on September 22, 2005


Wolfdaddy,

If you're going to be leaving town, when do you think you'll be going? I'm curious if you think my parents 3:00 pm decision is early, late, or just right.
posted by Bugbread at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2005


Wolfdaddy, cyrano, bugbread, and any other fellow Houstonians,
My father and sister are currently on the road trying to get out of Houston (starting from our home in Bellaire), but like you all they are turning back because you just can't move on the highways. If you can't find a way to get out of the city soon, I would suggest doing what my family is doing and taking shelter in the Veteran's Administration Hospital (my mom works there). I don't know if you know of it, but if not it's located where Bellaire/Holcombe hits Almeda (here's a map). It's a very secure building, built like a fortress, with its own generator and plenty of supplies. You should be very safe there if you can't leave the city.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:18 AM on September 22, 2005



posted by freshgroundpepper at 11:18 AM on September 22, 2005


"Houston Mayor Bill White said passengers should plan for waits of at least four hours at airports because of the failure of Transportation Security Administration employees to show up for work.
The irony.
posted by mischief at 11:18 AM on September 22, 2005


Mischief - not like it's the first time. There were major TSA issues when we had a particularly bad blizzard here in the DC area in early 2003. They didn't even staff the -main-office- then.

It's not at all amazing to me. When I first moved to the DC area in early 2002 they were starting to do big cattle-call interviews for screener personel and they were amazed when a huge percentage of people didn't show up. Big shocker - the starting pay was below what the local grocery was offering for a cart repair and maintanance person. A job that didn't require you to deal with getting to and from the airport every day, something the rest of us dread at the best of times.
posted by phearlez at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2005


Except that there is some very good logic behind it--it's been published in Nature, there must be at least some logic to it. Most cimatologists seem to agree at this point that global warming will increase the intensity of hurricanes, and thus the frequency of major hurricanes. Hurricanes intensify because of warm water--a warmer globe would mean warmer water. Where is there a lack of logic in that?

When did global warming start? Why didn't it start earlier, when we were putting many more tons of hydrocarbons in much more concentrated form in developed countries into the atmosphere? Why have we only seen evidence of a global warming trend reflected in weather patterns over the past ten years? I don't buy it.

Sure, it's logical that if ocean surface water temps are warmer, hurricanes can and will be stronger. That's provable as a truth. What's not proveable as a truth is that there aren't many other trends besides "global warming" that are causing ocean water surface temperatures in the gulf of mexico in particular to be warmer over this ten year period, and therefore is causing hurricanes to be stronger. If global warming was indeed the cause, we probably would've seen an increase in hurricanes from the 1950's through to today, not new lows set in the 70's and 80's and then an increase from 1995 to present.

My favorite Wag the dog quote: "I saw it on Television Nature, it must be true! there must be at least some logic to it!"
posted by SpecialK at 11:28 AM on September 22, 2005


(pardon misspellings, typed in a hurry on my way out the door...)
posted by SpecialK at 11:29 AM on September 22, 2005


bugbread, heh, after getting a call from my mom saying that none of the stores in HER area (she's right in-between Brenham and La Grange) have any water or food I'm thinking that I may just stay here, as I've got enough hurricane-staples to get me through to Tuesday at least, and I can fill my tub up with water.

As to your parents, I would say the earlier and safer they can make a trip that will have a high chance of actually getting them to their destination (instead of running out of gas before or being stuck in gridlock when the storm hits) the better.

Sangermaine, I appreciate the offer and will consider it ... but I have a kitty I refuse to leave behind.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:38 AM on September 22, 2005


When did global warming start? Why didn't it start earlier, when we were putting many more tons of hydrocarbons in much more concentrated form in developed countries into the atmosphere? Why have we only seen evidence of a global warming trend reflected in weather patterns over the past ten years? I don't buy it.

Global warming started 10,000 years ago, with agriculture. Diminishing forests for cropland reduced the planet's carbon sink capacity, while increasing herds of livestock creates more methane. It was enough to counter-balance the earth's natural cooling trend; you see, the Holocene isn't an epoch in any meaningful sense. It's a perfectly average interglacial. The ice age is still going on, we're just in a bit of a warm spell. Five thousand years ago, the earth started shifting back to heavy glaciation--but global warming from the first farmers checked that. The two had a kind of balance.

Until the Industrial Revolution, when we were able to ramp up production unlike anything we'd ever seen before. And then the Green Revolution, which did even more.

Now, there's a delay--on the order of decades--between gas emmissions and their climatological effects. Combine that with the exponential growth in greenhouse gases since the 1980's, and the multi-decadal cycle, and you'll see why it's happening now, rather than earlier. Global-warmed troughs look like normal crests--but now we're at the north Atlantic crest, and with global warming as well, we're seeing things we've never seen before.

In short, the cycles you're talking about are precisely why we're seeing it now, and not 20 years ago.

What's not proveable as a truth is that there aren't many other trends besides "global warming" that are causing ocean water surface temperatures in the gulf of mexico in particular to be warmer over this ten year period, and therefore is causing hurricanes to be stronger.

Of course there are cycles. You can see them quite clearly in the graph I posted above. You can also see that in the past ten years, we've gone off the scale, leaving all semblance of natural cycles far, far behind.

My favorite Wag the dog quote: "I saw it on Television Nature, it must be true! there must be at least some logic to it!"

Well, that is the idea behind peer review, isn't it? So that what's published, if not correct, is at least not egregiously stupid?
posted by jefgodesky at 11:40 AM on September 22, 2005


If you are leaving Houston:

I've been talking to a number of friends who are now in the Austin area. Here's the advice I'm getting from people who've cut down the trip time.

Back roads. Back roads, back roads, back roads. It's better to be moving 40 in a 40 zone than to be bumper to bumper on the interstate. Pull out a map and find yourself a two-land blacktop roughly parallel to the interstates. Get off the freeways, they're for people who can't read maps!

OK, back to the comments...
posted by DragonBoy at 11:40 AM on September 22, 2005


When did global warming start?

Before you were born.

The anthropogenic greenhouse era began thousands of years ago.
posted by meehawl at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK writes "If global warming was indeed the cause, we probably would've seen an increase in hurricanes from the 1950's through to today, not new lows set in the 70's and 80's and then an increase from 1995 to present. "

While I don't know nearly enough about global warming to weigh in on this debate, I have read enough to know that there are actually two groups discussing this issue from the point of view of global warming being valid, and that some people are intentionally or unintentionally obscuring the (important, I believe) difference: some believe global warming is the cause, some believe it is a cause.
posted by Bugbread at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2005


"two groups discussing this issue"

I thought the two groups were those who claim that mankind's contribution to the warming is significant and those who claim otherwise.
posted by mischief at 11:48 AM on September 22, 2005


...and those who claim otherwise.

We call those people, "ExxonMobil."
posted by jefgodesky at 11:54 AM on September 22, 2005


WolfDaddy,
From what I can tell, pets are okay, since they are allowing my family to take our dog (and he's not small either, a German Shepherd). If you're considering going, you could call and ask about that.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:06 PM on September 22, 2005


I'm in SW Houston. I had planned to head to College Station, but given that folks are spending 8 hours to go 20 miles, I'm afraid I'd run out of gas before getting there.

My house has never flooded (since 1969, that is), so I'm not worried about the rain. The high winds do worry me though.

So, I can try to evacuate and possibly run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, or I can stay and face the storm. Tough choice.
posted by Serena at 12:11 PM on September 22, 2005


This Rita evacuation snafu is an even bigger scandal than the Katrina response snafu.
posted by mischief at 12:15 PM on September 22, 2005


Okay thanks Sangermaine. Although the VA is lower ground than where I am currently...and is where some of the greatest flooding occurred during TS Allison iirc. As Serena says, tough choice!
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:16 PM on September 22, 2005


WolfDaddy, we're neighbors (I'm in Westbury). If you feel like your house is safe enough, stay in it. Sharpstown and Westbury tend to have street flooding, but not much flooding of the houses.
posted by Serena at 12:25 PM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK, I get the feeling you won't believe the wolf is coming until he blows your house down and devours you.

I'm glad you're being conservationally conscientious, though. Even if you don't believe you're helping everyone else, you still are.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:26 PM on September 22, 2005


I'm glad you're being conservationally conscientious, though. Even if you don't believe you're helping everyone else, you still are.

Heh, now of that, I'm not so sure ... I think the melting of Siberia's permafrost is probably one of the most significant stories of the year, and maybe more. It seems to suggest we've passed the "point of no return," where anthropogenic greenhouse gases haven't just checked the natural cooling trend, we've actually reversed it. Now we might have a snowball effect going on, where the global climate has been warmed too much, it's been pushed from one state of equilibrium, and will now very quickly transition to a new, hotter equilibrium.

If that's the case, we could completely stop all greenhouse gas emissions this very moment, and it wouldn't do a damn thing. Even ignoring the time lag, that it's the gases we put out twenty years ago that's affecting the atmosphere right now.

I think the time to do something was twenty years ago or more--now, I'm not sure there's anything that can be done. But hey, as Gretsky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't make." Besides, did you have anything better to do with whatever time might be left?
posted by jefgodesky at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2005


Bugbread: " 'two groups discussing this issue' "

mischief writes "I thought the two groups were those who claim that mankind's contribution to the warming is significant and those who claim otherwise."

Mischief, read what comes after that: "two groups discussing this issue from the point of view of global warming being valid"
posted by Bugbread at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2005


Well, that is the idea behind peer review, isn't it? So that what's published, if not correct, is at least not egregiously stupid?

Granted. But peer reviewed journals are not any indication of fact or soundness -- just that more than a few people agree with idea. A lot of times, trends in belief can greatly influence what gets published. Check out some peer reviewed journals from the early 1900's if you don't believe me...

Of course there are cycles. You can see them quite clearly in the graph I posted above. You can also see that in the past ten years, we've gone off the scale, leaving all semblance of natural cycles far, far behind.

My point is that, like the lows in the 70's and 80's being unparalelled in the charts, the recent highs are also unparalelled in the charts. If we had data that went back another 200 years, we might see that the highs and lows we're going through are a part of a natural cycle. Climates take decades to shift, and you don't know until after they've shifted that they've actually shifted.

SpecialK, I get the feeling you won't believe the wolf is coming until he blows your house down and devours you.

I know there's wolves out there, but I don't think the sky's falling.
posted by SpecialK at 12:36 PM on September 22, 2005


"It seems to suggest we've passed the "point of no return,""

We'll know soon enough, won't we, jef.
posted by zoogleplex at 12:37 PM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK, you're not even self-consistent. First you argue that there are other cycles at work, and that's why things are warming... and then you ignore everything you know about climate to demand that I explain why we didn't have that many hurricanes in the 70s and 80s.

For the record: there are other cycles at work. Our addition of greenhouse gas isn't the only thing happening in the atmosphere.

There are several pendulums swinging here. We are moving the focal point of the pendulums steadily upward. We will still have down years, possibly even down decades. We are a powerful force on the climate, and ultimately we may be the single largest one, but there's more going on than just us.

But the longer we wait, the worse the damage gets. And the warm Gulf may very well be linked to us directly. The other pendulums swung high this year, and our dragging the focal point up may have made the damage far, far worse than it otherwise would have been.

We probably didn't cause the hurricanes, but there's an excellent chance that we helped make them into monsters.
posted by Malor at 12:39 PM on September 22, 2005


Wolfdaddy-- If you're going through LaGrange, do you think you could stop off at the Cottonwood Inn on the way out of town and pick me up a chickenfried steak with mash potatoes & green beans & have it FedEx'd to me her in E. TN? I'd be happy to reimburse you via PayPal.

Seriously, good luck.
posted by Pressed Rat at 12:40 PM on September 22, 2005


You want some Chicken Ranch dressing sent along with that? :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:49 PM on September 22, 2005


My point is that, like the lows in the 70's and 80's being unparalelled in the charts, the recent highs are also unparalelled in the charts.

Actually, the 70s-80s rise was a bit less than the 40s-50s rise. We could extend that graph for quite a bit, and see very little variation on that nice sine wave for a good 10,000 years--until about 1995.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:52 PM on September 22, 2005


bugbread: "some believe global warming is the cause, some believe it is a cause" is distinctly different from "mankind's contribution is significant" and "insignificant".
posted by mischief at 1:06 PM on September 22, 2005


Actually, the 70s-80s rise was a bit less than the 40s-50s rise. We could extend that graph for quite a bit, and see very little variation on that nice sine wave for a good 10,000 years--until about 1995.

And 10,000 years of agriculture plus 200 years of spewing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere at the rate that a only rapidly industrializing global society with a plentiful supply of hydrocarbons in forms ranging from plant matter to animal dung to coal to gasoline can spew has had no effect whatsoever until 1995?

I -really- don't buy that.

Don't forget the lows as well as the highs. They're just as important, and I have a very hard time with megahurricanes from the early part of this century ... like the Labor Day 'Caine... happening at the same time that we had glaciers as far south as the canadian border.
posted by SpecialK at 1:20 PM on September 22, 2005


mischief writes "bugbread: 'some believe global warming is the cause, some believe it is a cause' is distinctly different from 'mankind's contribution is significant' and 'insignificant'."

Huh? Yeah, it is. What are you talking about?

Lemme try an example:

Person A: "Playing too much Brittney Spears is THE reason that MTV sucks."
Person B: "Playing too much Brittney Spears is A reason that MTV sucks."
Person C: "You guys are wrong. Playing too much Brittney Spears is not THE reason that MTV sucks."
Bugbread: "Uh, person C, they aren't both saying that Brittney Spears is THE reason. Person A is saying she is THE reason, person B is saying she is A reason, and that there are also other reasons."
Mischief: "No, the two groups are people who think that Britney is significant, and those who think she isn't."
Bugbread: "I'm not talking about that big division, I understand that. I'm pointing out that within the category of people who think 'Britney is significant' are the two subcategories 'she is the only reason' and 'she is one of the reasons'"
Mischief: " 'some think she is the cause, some think she is a cause' is distinctly different from 'she is significant' and 'insignificant'"
Bugbread: (puzzled expression)
posted by Bugbread at 1:26 PM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK, we just don't know enough about how all this stuff works to be sure either way, but many of us feel it's best to err on the side of caution.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:43 PM on September 22, 2005


Zoogle: Agreed, but it's futile in the larger picture in many ways, because it's difficult to impossible to get enough buy-in from society at large. Plus, blaming everything on global warming is like blaming everything from toothaches to migranes to fainting on "feminine vapors" instead of pointing out poor dental hygine, a lack of knowledge about headaches, and too-tight corsets. "Global warming" is a simple answer to a complex set of problems that we haven't even begun to address or study ... because everyone's focused on "global warming".
posted by SpecialK at 1:50 PM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK, we just don't know enough about how all this stuff works to be sure either way, but many of us feel it's best to err on the side of caution.

Well, it is quite clear that north Atlantic PDI has skyrocketed since 1995, far beyond the realm of any natural cycle. So the question is, what's changed since 1995?
posted by jefgodesky at 1:51 PM on September 22, 2005


SpecialK, we didn't start putting large amounts of carbon and other greenhouse gases into the air until the Industrial Revolution, and it wasn't until the 1940s that it started getting truly serious. Climate isn't a fast thing. Normally, changes happen over thousands or tens of thousands of years. The fact that we're seeing such major changes in such short periods of time should scare you to your boots.

Climate is SLOW. For it to be responding this fast means it's getting 'pushed' incredibly hard. As one writer pointed out, systems can have multiple equilibria. You can rock the rowboat and it goes back, rock the rowboat and it goes back, rock the rowboat and it goes back... and then the next time you rock the rowboat, you go just a little too far and it goes to its other steady state, upside down.

I don't think you understand as much about the theories of and the evidence for global warming as you think you do.
posted by Malor at 1:57 PM on September 22, 2005


One more comment. I was reading a very interesting thing by an atmospheric scientist recently. He pointed out that, over and over, the media comes up with Something To Scare Us, and if you go and talk to the scientists involved, most of them will dismiss the threat as irrelevant, unimportant, or misunderstood.

In his words, almost every climate scientist he knows is scared to death. It's the only time, in his experience, that the SCIENTISTS are jumping up and down, and the media and the government aren't paying them much attention.

The scientists, the guys and gals on the ground who pay attention to this stuff professionally, are terrified of what's going on. This isn't something to be treated lightly. It's not a manufactured media thing. It's real, and it's starting to bite us.
posted by Malor at 2:03 PM on September 22, 2005


"but it's futile in the larger picture in many ways, because it's difficult to impossible to get enough buy-in from society at large."

So what you're saying is that if indeed we are the cause of this rapid escalation in temperature, resulting in more powerful storms and ice melt and all that sort of thing, nobody's going to believe it's happening until and unless the environment actually changes so drastically that civilization and maybe human life itself hangs in the balance?

See my comment about the wolf again.

If we as a species are so collectively stupid that we can't do better than bacteria in a petri dish, maybe we deserve to be wiped out by our own waste.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:06 PM on September 22, 2005


Malor, I'm still not convinced the climate's responding to our interference. That's the whole point I've been trying to make. I think there would've been a more gradual upswing as opposed to a sharp spike. We're looking at a very limited dataset, and as you've said, climate is SLOW.
posted by SpecialK at 2:24 PM on September 22, 2005


You're forgetting the butterfly effect, SpecialK. Inherently chaotic systems can have quick changes due to unpredictable feedback effects, and our atmosphere and weather therein are very much inherently chaotic systems. In fact, the birth of chaos theory is very much linked to attempts at weather prediction with computers.

The weather is so inherently chaotic that even with the best models, local weather cannot be accurately predicted more than a few days in advance except in very general terms.

Literally, anything could happen given that so much is going on, and if we are warming the earth we are front-loading the system with more energy - which means more rapid feedback multipliers are quite likely.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:33 PM on September 22, 2005


Houstonian Mefites - We're at Westheimer and Gessner, never flooded at all in our neighborhood (Tanglewilde.) We've got lots of food, a good amount of water for a couple of days - come on over, we're staying. Please contact me at my e-mail address in my profile.
posted by pomegranate at 2:38 PM on September 22, 2005


Happily, the storm is still weakening and is down to Cat 4 with 150 mph winds. Not that that's so much less bad, it's still really bad, but it's better and hopefully it will weaken even more.

The bad news is that the expected track takes it straight through the densest areas of offshore platforms and refineries. :( Let's hope that changes.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:45 PM on September 22, 2005


Right, so climate is slow. There's no record of anything even REMOTELY like what we're seeing now in the geologic record. We're seeing extremely rapid, unprecedented change. As far as we can tell, through all the millions of years we can look back with drilling and ice cores, this has never happened before. The last time we see evidence for a climate change of equivalent magnitude (though the opposite direction) was when the dinosaurs (and, in fact, most life on earth) were wiped out. The only other really unique thing we're aware of is human civilization. Surely, drawing a line from A to B isn't unreasonable.

The consensus in the scientific community is overwhelming. They could be wrong, but it strikes me that betting against such a huge majority of smart, well-educated experts is unbelievably foolish.

You accused me of stupidity earlier. I submit to you that your refusal to accept a scientific consensus that strong is moronic. These people have literally forgotten more than we'll ever know about climate, and yet you'll sit there and post that virtually every climate scientist in the world is just all wrongheaded, and that you're "not convinced". Based on, from what I can see, nothing but wishful thinking and broad generalities about how science is sometimes wrong, along with a few observations that the cause and effect isn't clear to you as a layperson, so it must not actually be cause and effect.

You're. Not. Using. Your. Brain.
posted by Malor at 2:57 PM on September 22, 2005


"We're seeing extremely rapid, unprecedented change."

And I reiterate, butterfly effect in a chaotic system. This is exactly what you see when that sort of thing happens.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:13 PM on September 22, 2005


Hey, while researching for some art for the game I'm working on, I found a cool graph and info that relates to this:

http://www.rosssea.info/glaciers.html


Scroll down (quite a ways) to "Long Term Climatic Changes," where it shows the temperature in Antarctica as deduced from studying a 2000+ foot ice core from Lake Vostok area. you can clearly see the temperature cycles going back a bit more than 400,000 years.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:21 PM on September 22, 2005


There's no record of anything even REMOTELY like what we're seeing now in the geologic record.

Yes, there is.

That's not to say that the climate driving currently underway is bereft of catastrophic potential. I think a big reason why anatomically modern humans remained marginalized and seemingly unable to kick-start civilisation for hundreds of thousands of years was because of unfavourable climate conditions and big swings. Only with an unusually prolonged relative calm during the Holocene were our ancestors able to start putting down serious roots and, as I mentioned above, work unknowingly to fend off an overdue glaciation that would have driven them back to the equator, mainly by using cow farts.

Thank goodness for flatulence.
posted by meehawl at 4:10 PM on September 22, 2005


So perhaps global warming is overall a good thing for humanity? Heh... wouldn't that be a kicker. :D

Can't rule it out though!
posted by zoogleplex at 4:14 PM on September 22, 2005


Good luck to all of those trying to weather the storm.






As for the discussion regarding global warming, I CAN'T FUCKING BELIEVE YOU PEOPLE! You are trying to disregard a worldwide phenomena, of which there is irrefutable evidence, because it is really, really scary.

Guess what? IT IS SCARY! And it's not something that we might see a few years down the road, it's something which is affecting us now, and will have major effects within our lifetimes. It's hard not to sound like a fanatical alarmist, if only for the fact that the changes we are in for are so huge.

Wake the fuck up.
posted by craven_morhead at 4:21 PM on September 22, 2005


the only good opinions are groundless stubborn ones.
posted by shmegegge at 5:07 PM on September 22, 2005


My father-in-law has been on the road since 3:30pm yesterday. In 28 hours he's made 90 miles, traveling from Clear Lake City on 45 to the Beltway, then to 290 (he's near Chappel Hill now). Mother-in-law left 15 minutes earlier and got to Austin at 6:15am after taking 45 to the Beltway, then I-10.
posted by WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot at 6:14 PM on September 22, 2005


meehawl, I only have access to the third link you posted... free accounts can't get to the first two. It's pretty dense and and jargon-filled, but if I am correct in interpreting 'ka BP' as being 'kilo annums before present', the time frames involved are still extraordinarily long. The authors seem to be talking about thousand-year periods. We're talking about fifty-year periods now.

I suspect that if you took their sample data and stretched it out wide enough to let us see individual years (though they would likely be extrapolated...it's doubtful that their resolution is anywhere near that high), the last fifty to a hundred years would stand out to an extraordinary degree.

I'm sorry I can't read the other articles, I'd like to.
posted by Malor at 6:30 PM on September 22, 2005


"Climate is SLOW. For it to be responding this fast means it's getting 'pushed' incredibly hard. As one writer pointed out, systems can have multiple equilibria. You can rock the rowboat and it goes back, rock the rowboat and it goes back, rock the rowboat and it goes back... and then the next time you rock the rowboat, you go just a little too far and it goes to its other steady state, upside down."

Well, my response to that is similar to zoogleplex's comments about chaotic systems. However, I really avoid invoking chaos a la its popular comprehension (because of its huge distortion by Crichton and so many others) and instead talk of the more generalized complex systems.

Anyway, I have very little confidence in our ability (now) to understand something as complex as the interaction between climate, climate change, and weather. To say that it's either slow or fast seems wrongheaded to me. It can be slow and it can be fast. One part of the system may tolerate huge variations without altering the larger-scale emergent phenomena-of-interest while another part may show only a small change affecting the emergent phenomena-of-interest. I think that we're only ever going to have very good models of these sorts of things and, as a result, we have to be very careful of the generalizations we can make about them.

And we now don't have very good models at all. By historical standards, sure we've made a lot of progress. But in terms of what we'd like and, really, need to have, we're not very close.

So, the problem as I see it is that SpecialK may be right while those arguing with him may be right. Not at the same time, mostly, but both are quite plausible given the current state of knowledge. One thing I think is not controvertible is that human-activity driven global climate change as a general idea is completely plausible and that it is actually true to some degree, much how bugbread has put it. But SpecialK's annoyance at those who think in terms of simple cause/effect relationships and see these hurricanes as self-evident proof of global warming is completely warranted.

In some of the more plausible alternate universes, I'm a complex systems theorist. :) It's my strong intuition that people very, very poorly comprehend complex systems and western science's historical success at solving what are, basically, the easiest natural puzzles has given us both a false confidence and an increasingly less helpful tendency to think in terms of simple and abstract cause/effect relationships in reductionist systems.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:19 PM on September 22, 2005


By the way, thanks for that Glaciers of Antarctica link provided above that leads to a mentioned chart. I like the whole page. Strangely, Antactica seems to be more and more interesting to me every year and I'm not exactly sure why.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:22 PM on September 22, 2005


We live in Katy and managed to get as far as the Woodlands before realising the sheer futility of it all and turning back. We have family in Dallas and tried every back road we could using the ever-handy Streets and Trips and a GPS receiver. No joy.

With ever-dwindling gas and the prospect of not being able to fill up again, we turned round and headed home. It took us 12 hours to get to the Woodlands, and 40 minutes to get back to Katy.

Our apartment complex is pretty sturdy and we're on the second floor (of three), so we should be safe enough.

Good luck to all riding this one out. I know I'd much prefer to be indoors than on the highway tomorrow night.
posted by Ridge at 8:00 PM on September 22, 2005


stay safe, all of you.
posted by amberglow at 8:19 PM on September 22, 2005


it's doubtful that their resolution is anywhere near that high

Actually, you can resolve down to low decadal swings by up to 5 Celsius. At certain times the North Atlantic circulation system just freaks out. Western Europe and the North American Seaboard are not very congenial places during those times.

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/99/11/ocean/ocean1.html

Measurements in Greenland ice cores by Pieter Grootes and coworkers at the University of Washington over the last decade documented large, rapid swings in air temperature during the last glacial period. Similar swings in polar and subpolar sea temperatures have been inferred from the distribution of micro-fossil shells in those sediments. But Sachs and Lehman are the first to demonstrate that dramatic temperature changes of up to 5 degrees Celsius (or 9 degrees Fahrenheit) occurred not only in the north, but well into the warm ocean, during the period 60,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Taking samples every 1 or 2 centimeters throughout the 12-meter section of sediment, each representing 33 to 67 years of deposition on average, the two extracted lipids (fatty substances) from each sample and then used gas chromatography to measure the ratio of alkenones.

Based on the technique, the researchers were able to reconstruct the surface sea temperature, showing that it varied between 15.5 centigrade to 21 centigrade -- close to the current water temperature of 22.5 Celsius.
posted by meehawl at 8:27 PM on September 22, 2005


Thank you, amberglow.

Thankfully, it looks like all that Austin will have to worry about is a 5-day deluge, but being from the northwest, I think I can handle that. Keep your fingers crossed for all those poor people in Houston...

...and before I forget, can anyone believe that people don't have enough gas to get out? I mean, tragic as it is in a forst world nation, I wasn't surprised that there were people too poor to get out of New Orleans -- but regular middle-class folks running out of gas on the highway? Unreal.

On the other hand, it's Houston, and having been there I suppose I shouldn't find it too surprising. Meh.
posted by spiderwire at 8:29 PM on September 22, 2005


Thanks amberglow.

spiderwire, I'm as amazed as you. In a city so totally reliant on the automobile it floored me that there'd even be such a thing as a gas shortage.

How naive of me.
posted by Ridge at 8:40 PM on September 22, 2005


Interesting comment shamelessly stolen from the Chronicle Ritablog:

I've been listening to a live call-in show on a certain local AM radio station for the past couple of nights. It's been interesting to hear the difference in the attitudes of both the announcer and the callers between the two nights. Last night, there was much bragging about how "The Great State of Texas" was going to handle Rita so much better than weak, corrupt Louisiana had handled Katrina. Tonight, with nearly constant reports of massive traffic jams so bad that many people are running out of gas and other people are turning around and going back home, the humbled announcers and reporters are suddenly aware of what a huge undertaking a major evacuation is. Don't forget that greater New Orleans successfully evacuated about 1.2 million people on a freeway system that is more limited in possible directions you can go than what Houston has. Where New Orleans failed was in evacuating people who couldn't drive, and Houston/Galveston is likely doing a much better job in this respect, probably at least in part because of lessons learned from Katrina.
posted by calwatch at 9:29 PM on September 22, 2005


Ethereal, I have no doubt whatsoever that you're right about simple cause and effect... complex systems do weird things when you poke them. The resulting bulge may not be even remotely like you'd expect it to be. There might not even be a bulge.

The smart thing to do, therefore, is not to poke it, because there just might BE a bulge, and in a very bad place. In particular, when your life is dependent on that system continuing to work, you don't want to poke it harder than at anytime in the last few million years.

We're seeing huge melts all over the northern hemisphere. The cause and effect may not be direct, but we do know we're changing the composition of the atmosphere to an extraordinary degree. That's just not very smart. Sure, it might just be a coincidence so far... but you simply can't argue that we can keep pumping this level of stuff into the air forever. Something will eventually have to give. The climate scientiists think that it's already happening.

If you make completely unprecedented changes to a complex system, expecting completely unprecedented results is hardly out of line.

meehawl: it's worth pointing out that those very high temperature swings are localized. The heat transfer from one area to another shuts down, so one area gets a lot colder and the other gets a lot hotter. That's not global warming, that's just heat redistribution. The stuff we're observing is all across the globe. Not everywhere, of course, but we're seeing warming in so very many places, from Alaska to Siberia. That's not a localized phenomenon, and isn't easily explained by a single (large) current starting up and shutting down.

It's also worth pointing out that, assuming I understood your post correctly, the ocean is now 1.5 degrees warmer than it has been in at least the last sixty thousand years. This doesn't concern you at all?
posted by Malor at 10:24 PM on September 22, 2005


i wonder what Hurricane Carter would say about all this.
posted by Hat Maui at 10:35 PM on September 22, 2005


The new Science News has a fair-minded, scientific and fairly brief look at claims of a connection between global warming and the intensity and frequency of hurricanes. I read it this afternoon and thought it was a really good introduction to the topic for non-meteorologists, with thoughtful points and interesting questions for all sides of the discussion.
posted by mediareport at 11:00 PM on September 22, 2005


spiderwire writes "can anyone believe that people don't have enough gas to get out?"

It seemed weird to me too, until I read about how long the traffic jams are. They're not totally stopped traffic, so it's not like you can just turn off your engine and conserve gas, but they're slow enough that you're running your engine for hours and hours without getting anywhere, and thereby depleting your tank. Or, at least, that's my guess.

Now, as far as gas stations running out of gas, that's a bit of a different issue.
posted by Bugbread at 6:48 AM on September 23, 2005


those very high temperature swings are localized.

That's easy for you to say, as long as you're not one of the 1.1 billion living within that particular potentially affected region.

That's not global warming, that's just heat redistribution ... isn't easily explained by a single (large) current starting up and shutting down.

No, but currents are the mechanism of heat circulation within the system. The air flows, hurricanes, etc, are just consequents of the deep-ocean currents, which in energy quantity dwarf everything else. Having some major currents suddenly shift hundreds or thousands of km will lead to the cessation of hurricane formation in certain regions, and their formation in other, new, and unexpected regions.

the ocean is now 1.5 degrees warmer than it has been in at least the last sixty thousand years. This doesn't concern you at all?

Of course it does, that's why I brought up the hydrates earlier - an unusually large proportion of which lie off the North American seaboard. Along with the tundra, they are the single greatest threat of a massive runaway inflexion in the warming trend.

However, virtually nothing is known about the change in temps at abbyssopelagic depths. What I am driving at is that changes in the epipelagic zone are easy to measure, but that predicting their future, or using them to predict future climate patterns, is dodgy. They are not drivers, but consequents. What really matters is how damn hot (or to be more, precise, cold) the depths remain. Warming them up should take a few centuries of extreme pushing - of course the problem is that they will then take at least that long to cool back down again. And while unusually heated, their effect on the surface will be unpredictable.
posted by meehawl at 6:52 AM on September 23, 2005


Water is now flooding back into New Orleans.
posted by caddis at 7:41 AM on September 23, 2005


Poor New Orleans. Poor Ninth Ward. Every time I think my stuff might get through this all right in my little French Quarter apartment, something else happens. I must assume my pet snail is dead by now.

Maybe this isn't the result of global warming, but if it it, I'm going to smack whoever is responsible right in the face.
posted by maxsparber at 9:13 AM on September 23, 2005


Fellow Houstonians and others in the area - best of luck to you and yours. I'll see ya'll on the other side of the storm.
posted by John Smallberries at 10:33 AM on September 23, 2005


Ok, bit of a question for anyone in the know or in Houston: I looked at some freeway cams, and the freeways in Houston now seem to be pretty much deserted (freer of traffic in midday than any time I ever remember). However, the Mayor is apparently saying (as of several hours earlier) that the window for evacuation is over and people who haven't left yet should just stay. If the freeways are that clear, wouldn't it be eminently possible to leave now and reach Austin by like 10:00 p.m. or so, far far in advance of the storm? Or, rather, even if that's impossible, wouldn't it have been possible to have left at 4:00 p.m. or so (which is post-road-clearing and also post-Mayoral-nonevac-advice) and reach Austin by 10:00ish?
posted by Bugbread at 4:05 PM on September 23, 2005


max, have you been back yet? have your neighbors? (they've said that the Quarter and Marigny made it thru really well, compared to other neighborhoods)

I would think so, bugbread--unless they've already stationed National Guards at the highways to keep them clear for Emergency vehicles and stuff, which is possible.
posted by amberglow at 4:50 PM on September 23, 2005


About a year and a half ago, emergency management teams from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security gathered in Colorado Springs — the same facility where President Bush will monitor Hurricane Rita Saturday — to run an exercise involving a hurricane hitting the Texas Gulf Coast... a mythical Cat 4/5 called "Hurricane Greg."

And they still couldn't even evacuate Houston????
posted by amberglow at 6:06 PM on September 23, 2005


To be honest, amberglow, while I think they could have done a better job of evacuating Houston (contraflowing traffic, for one), I don't think it's realistic to imagine that anyone could completely successfully evacuate that town.
posted by Bugbread at 7:34 PM on September 23, 2005


I don't see why not, at least for 90% or so of the population--If you're mobilizing resources, and going door-to-door and stuff.

This whole relying on people having their own cars is absurd and ineffective. Doesn't Houston have Light Rail now? Aren't there City Buses/Public Transit? Thousands of School Buses owned by the City?
posted by amberglow at 7:42 PM on September 23, 2005


City buses were evacuating peoiple, and light rail is completely worthless for evacuation since it doesn't go anywhere other than Downtown and the stadium complex (Reliant Park). At least they all got out. As far as the carless, they shut down the Metro bus service to divert them for shuttles for those without cars. People could call to be evacuated.

Lack of Automobility Key to New Orleans Tragedy
posted by calwatch at 11:03 PM on September 23, 2005


amberglow : "Doesn't Houston have Light Rail now? Aren't there City Buses/Public Transit?"

There is light rail, but not much of it, and I can't see how it would be used in an evacuation.

There are city buses, but very, very few. I don't know exact numbers, so I may be wrong in what I'm about to say about them, but, in my opinion, the number is small enough that I don't think their inclusion would make any significant impact on the speed of evacuation. They might be used to evacuate 2 or 3%, I'd imagine.

There are, however, quite a few buses if you consider school buses, but at least two things to keep in mind:

1) There is probably a school bus capacity equivalent to less than half the number of school children. That is, the same buses are used to service elementary schools and junion/senior high schools (by staggering the times the buses do double duty). Also, kids close to school don't take the bus, and high school kids often drive to school. So I'll estimate that the entire fleet of buses could take one third of the school kids at a time (or, of course, their equivalent numbers of adults, etc.). If you drove them to Dallas, for example, which is 6 hours or more away by bus (remember that buses have governers that prevent driving at 70 mph), plus the loading time of picking them all up (1 hour in a best-case situation), in 7 hours you could take one load of kids to Dallas. Another 6 hours to drive back, another hour to pick up again, and another 6 hours back, drop them off, and then a third time. That means that if everything goes perfectly, all kids get off the buses in Dallas in a theoretical 1 minute span, there are no restroom stops, and there is no wait when refueling the buses, you could transport a number of people equivalent to the population of Houston between ages 6 and 18 in 33 hours. Far more realistically, that would probably take at least 48 hours. Looking at population stats for Houston, 19.24% of Houstonians are between age 5 and 18. So you've used every school bus in the city at max capacity continuously for 48 hours, and you still have 4/5 of the city still to go.

2) Unless you forbid people to evacuate in their cars, the vast majority are going to want to. Take, for example, my parents, who wanted to take their cars so that 1) wherever they went, they'd at least have transportation, 2) they could load it with food, water, flashlights, etc., 3) they could load it with financial documents, insurance documents, etc., 4) they could load it with whatever else seems like it would be necessary for weathering the initial storm and then life afterwards, in the event that the house itself were totally destroyed. You can't carry nearly that much stuff on your shoulders onto a school bus.

So there's a bit of a bind...If you try to evacuate completely by bus, it will take at very, absolutely, hypothetically least maybe 165 hours (6.8 days), and more realistically about 10 days, plus you have to somehow enforce, civilly, prohibitions on motorists taking their own personal cars, which would be a mean feat to pull off. If you allow individual motorists to use their cars, in addition to the whole bus fleet...you have a big freaking traffic jam that prevents everyone from being able to evacuate.

I just don't see how it could be done.
posted by Bugbread at 8:47 AM on September 24, 2005


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