#50 The Prognosticator

The Prognosticator.

A friend passed along a forecasting tool designed to illustrate future sea level changes in coastal United States. It is a quite interesting interactive map worthy of exploration time. While there is good science behind its making, I don’t think changes that are forthcoming will work out exactly as this tool suggests, even though I think the visualizations that the tool provides may help.

I’ve only been living next to the wild ocean for two and a half years yet in that short expanse of time we’ve had a few storms that suggest to me that predicted changes will not come in an orderly or predictable manner.  It’s my observation that there have been a few storms in my time here that hint of what kind of weather and climate changes might be in store. An October storm produced 70 mph winds out of the SSE, an unusual direction for such ferocity. This storm took down massive trees–oaks and maples–which had withstood many years of storms. My thoughts were that these trees had adapted their defense mechanisms of root and limb growth to the nor’easters and to the prevailing westerly winds of the Northeast. What took these trees down, it seemed to me, was that the fierce winds of the October storm came from a direction that did not normally produce a threat and those strong old trees were not prepared so they went down. It took six days to clear the roads of power lines and debris of tree bodies and parts-of-tree bodies that were everywhere.

A year ago in March New England and many parts of the Northeast experienced four nor’easters on a row. One of them was a particularly nasty storm but I think it was the collective power of storm after storm which did the real damage, both physically and psychologically. As some experts forecast, it is the ferocity of weather which is amping up at the same time  becoming more erratic. As I played with the variations possible with this online coastline change predictor, I visualized storm damage that could alter how we feel about our beloved landscapes, turning what is familiar into an alien landscapes. Places which have been denuded of trees, by fire or tornados for example, alter these landscapes with changes that will last for years or even forever. Such drastic alterations change our personal relationships to the land. Communities are re-formed with loss a constant theme for both those who go and those who stay.

Humans continue to build housing along our shorelines as close to the water as they can, which is understandable considering how many of us are pulled toward water and especially oceans. If the magnitude of destructive storms and resulting financial loss ramps up it it is possible that our what has been our deep attraction may evolve into fear. What happens when places we thought of as  safe havens become highly dangerous?  What happens to us after we experience the imaginable? Think Hurricane Sandy and NY/NJ. Think Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico. Think Paradise, CA.

Let me pile on one with another one of  my possibly hair-brained theories, this one particularly anecdotal. Many years ago when living in Northeastern Vermont, I noticed there seemed to be to be a correlation between fierce weather (particularly in the form of wild winter snowstorms) and surges of psychologically/emotionally negative outbursts among friends and family. One winter in particular seemed filled with extremes on both weather and psychological fronts and I felt there was a link between the internal and external storms. Did emotional and physical climates mirror each other? Correlation? Causation? There is zero science here but if my long ago observation has any validity, the  current pitched emotional climate in this country (and in the world) might mean that we could be in for a truly rough and unprecedented ride in our coming weather conditions, thus confirming the worst of our climate change fears.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Predictor:


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