QUITE THE COINCIDENCE

Lost in the drama of what is happening in south Texas and the President's predictably weird, tone deaf, self-congratulatory response to it is the fact that in the past 12 years the Gulf Coast has been hit by two "100 Year" storms and now a "500 Year" storm.

Those names are somewhat misleading, of course, because they are derived from the odds of a storm of that severity happening in any given year. So, a 100 Year storm is just an extrapolation of a storm that has a 1% chance of occurring each hurricane season. Something that has a 1% chance of happening could very well happen three times in twelve observations, but it certainly isn't likely. That said, even before 2005 these storms clearly were much more frequent than once every century. A more accurate way to describe them might be "More powerful than 99% of storms" or simply to update the odds to incorporate the last 100 years of data. It's likely that a more accurate term might be something like "Ten year storm," as that seems to reflect what we've experienced.

In other words, don't get too caught up on phrases like "100 year storm." It's inaccurate any way you look at it.

Instead, let's stop and consider the fact that warming and rising oceans are going to continue to increase the clip at which these storms strike the United States (and elsewhere, obviously). The Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast are such densely populated areas that when these storms do hit, they will inevitably cause nearly catastrophic damage. Frankly it's amazing that the death toll in Texas is not higher, but even so it is clear that there will be billions upon billions of dollars in damage. ProPublica has a great rundown of just how vulnerable a low-lying city like New Orleans or Houston is to severe weather off the open ocean.

The stark reality is that it is probably too late for this or any other country to truly roll back the effects of human degradation of the environment. We are down to simply trying not to make it any worse than it already is. What is certain, though, is that the future of the Gulf Coast is not as promising as the numbers of Americans flocking to the Sun Belt since 1990s might suggest. Jack the temperatures up another degree or three, bring more frequent (and more severe) weather off the oceans, and let these unsustainably enormous populations continue to work away at the water resources of the area and it's going to add up to a nightmare for government at every level. The cost of a system to protect the Texas coast would no doubt be staggering and I have no doubt that the kind of statewide officials Texans elect will produce nothing but "Global warming is a hoax" rhetoric.

We have, in other words, unprecedented challenges coming our way at the exact point at which our elected officials have the least vision and foresight. Good luck.

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70 Responses to “QUITE THE COINCIDENCE”

  1. Emerson Dameron Says:

    Part of me is sympathetic to conservative denial on this topic. I'm not sure I'm equipped to handle the existential gut-punch it delivers when considered with any honesty.

    We're fucked, we asked for it, there's approximately nothing we can do, and nothing else seems worth thinking about.

  2. wetcasenebts Says:

    I don't wish suffering on anybody but a few ex-bosses and landlords, but the great irony of Global Warming in the US is that it's going to hit red states the hardest, literally and economically, and might actually bring a few benefits to places in blue New England/NYC/New Jersey/Chicago.

  3. democommie Says:

    I'm not so sure that NYC is going to not get fucked if we have another Sandy type event that tracks a little furhther north and west. Other than that, I concur with the bithe'a'yase.

    I'm thinking that Soylent Green will be for those above the 99th percentile. For the rest, it will be the feedstocks for soylent green.

  4. Katydid Says:

    Ed's right; it's not just the USA dealing with the effects. There are at least a thousand dead right now in India/Nepal/Bangladesh because of unusally crazy monsoons. Places like France, the UK, and Germany have been suffering heretofore unknown heatwaves in the past couple of years, and Australia is frequently on fire and/or experiencing unbelievable, brain-melting heatwaves.

    Locally, I was just chatting with a 97-year-old neighbor who has lived in the same house his entire life. We remarked on how oddly cool and rainy this summer has been–and he has a lifetime of summers in the exact same location to compare this one to. Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest is dealing with drought and record-setting heat. Of course the climate is changing and it's frustrating to listen to the denial from the head-in-the-sand contingent.

  5. democommie Says:

    And, when they finally embrace climate change, the ReiKKKbots will, of course, blame the liebrals.

  6. Bessemer Mucho Says:

    –and after blaming the liberals, they will rub their hands together & start profiting from the new conditions, following in the tradition of the very first entrepreneurial Republican micro-organisms, which learned to operate in the new oxygenated atmosphere 2 billion years ago. It may look like misfortune to us, but to them it is OPPORTUNITY!

  7. democommie Says:

    My website address keeps changing to something that's not the same spelling. Not that people are dying to visit me but ?

  8. BigHank53 Says:

    It is…not quite so dire. (Not that it won't suck; it's gonna suck really hard.) But sooner or later a whole bunch of low-lying coastal land will become uninsurable. And if you can't buy insurance for a piece of land, no bank will lend you money to buy it. Conversely, if you own a piece of land that can't be sold, it has a value of zero. Would you pay taxes on something that has a value of zero?

    It will be interesting to see (in the manner of the Chinese curse) how our politicians manage to square the circle of needing to replace a whole lot of infrastructure with a greatly reduced tax base.

  9. Safety Man! Says:

    @ BigHank53

    A lot of hobby farms/ homesteads going up now are not eligible for traditional bank financing (because they are not tied to utilities, unimproved lots, etc.) but people have found ways to make it work.

    I can't take credit for this, I think it was democommie who pointed out that the Great Lake cities are looking pretty attractive again (temperate climate, abundant water, not currently sinking into the sea, it's the little things).

  10. HoosierPoli Says:

    Houston hasn't seen its last hurricane ass-pounding but at least it still conceivably has a future, if a damp one. Phoenix is already too hot to land a plane in and in 30 years will probably be a ghost town that will make Flint look quaint.

  11. HoosierPoli Says:

    Katydid:

    "Places like France, the UK, and Germany have been suffering heretofore unknown heatwaves in the past couple of years"

    While this is true, at least in Germany we have gone through a couple of summers of EXTREMELY unusual cold weather. Like, summer doesn't start until July and by the end of August has pretty much petered out. Weather is not climate and god-willing this is just a shitty coincidence but I will note that the possibility that the Gulf Stream gets shut down by Arctic meltwater would most likely bury Hamburg under 30 meters of glacier in pretty short order.

  12. OtherAndrew Says:

    "I can't take credit for this, I think it was democommie who pointed out that the Great Lake cities are looking pretty attractive again (temperate climate, abundant water, not currently sinking into the sea, it's the little things)."

    Of course, the northern shore of New York State has been regularly flooding all year this year because of historically high water levels in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, so…

  13. Grung_e_Gene Says:

    Hurricanes hate Republicans and punish America by drowning cities.

  14. Well ... mostly Says:

    Wait a minute! I thought they said God sends the storms, punishing sinners and all that. What's Houston done to deserve this? Too much butt sex in Texas? What's all this talk about climate? Maybe that 700 club preacher will explain it for us. I await those comforting words.

  15. Major Kong Says:

    [Libertarian]

    Those people knew what they were getting into when they moved to Houston. Why should we I have to pay to bail them out?

    [/Libertarian]

  16. terraformer Says:

    Up here in MKE, I'm already seeing a higher number of license plates from the South (e.g., Florida, Texas). The smart people in those areas, defined as those who accept climate change as real rather than a liberal or Chinese plot, are already looking to get out. I expect that trickle to become larger as time goes by.

    Certainly, I'm all for the giving the white supremacists and the anti-gov types their "heaven on earth" where there are no minorities, taxes, or regulations. I nominate the Gulf States. Let 'em have it, then we'll build a wall around them. We'll see how they get by in their utopia with no one and nothing to hate anymore, all while they ignore the rising salt water since it's not really happening, dontchaknow?

  17. John Says:

    "…the great irony of Global Warming in the US is that it's going to hit red states the hardest, literally and economically, and might actually bring a few benefits to places in blue New England/NYC/New Jersey/Chicago."

    True, but I think whatever benefits those areas receive (e.g. being able to grow oranges in Cincinnati) will be canceled out by the massive infrastructure spending the red-staters will inevitably leech off of the rest of the country – levees, dams, new coastlines, dredging, etc., to keep Tampa from sinking into the ocean.

  18. Safety Man! Says:

    @ Major Kong

    I still remember Ted Cruze voting against hurricane relief after Sandy, and I'm terrible enough of a person to humbly suggest that all NE states return the favor. Maybe then they'll learn.

  19. democommie Says:

    @ Safety Man!:

    That thought, although I share it, was espoused by someone else–fresh water will become as oil if this shit keeps up. Interestingly, the reason Cargill and Morton have big salt mines up here is because there is a salt "lens" that's not that far down. Shallow wells are pretty all that you can have in a lot of places without punching into the salt and fucking up the water table. Hydrofracking will probably manage to do that, too.

    @ Other Andrew:

    Oswego's city marina is having high water issues. Of course it's all Obama's fault.If you buy a place near water and that water has historically not respected property lines, well, there's gonna be problems.

  20. democommie Says:

    @ Major Kong:

    Ron Paul, IIRC, was against bailouts for NJ and Nawlins. Wonder how he feels now that the district he LIVES in is under water.

  21. doug Says:

    The 100 and 500 year storms are for a single 24 hour period. They have to cut if off somewhere and 24 hours is it. Makes sense and works well most of the time.

    An event of multiple days in a row of 100 or 500 year storms is not modeled all that well.

    Some data will be collected in Tx on this one. I wish them safety and a full recovery.

    The best news is Tony Perkins (spelling may be wrong?) the preacher? who sometime ago said a flood was god's retribution against gay sinners) house is underwater.

  22. Burning River Says:

    @Safety Man!

    And those of us who live up around here (Lake Erie literally my entire life) and have sort of figured this out aren't going anywhere.

  23. Sikkadis Shite Says:

    People are suffering in Texas, but their representatives (whom they've happily reelected since) gave the big FUCK YOU to the Northeast when Sandy clobbered NJ/NY, etc. Oh, it's different now. Sorta like abortion-is-bad except when our Susie had an accident. Show some compassion!

    http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/08/then_and_now_the_texas_lawmakers_asking_for_aid_af.html

  24. julie Says:

    just yesterday my husband suggested that we need to reconsider our retirement plan. we always thought we'd get a home on one of the barrier islands on the gulf coast of florida. we may just stay put in the Chicago area and travel in winter. i feel bad for people who are stuck in the mess we've made of our world.

  25. Steve Holt! Says:

    I wonder what events like this will ultimately do to healthcare spending too. The immediate injuries and such are one thing, but there are other long term illnesses, such as respiratory infections and staph, that are even more dangerous and long lasting and difficult to treat. The exhausted people that have to go home to a pile of moldy germs have years of health problems ahead of them.

  26. Greg Says:

    @John Tampa is packed to the gills with assholes, and plenty of them are rethuglikkklans, but it's mostly still a Democrat town. Certainly a purple hue. And having Democrats mostly running the place has done NOTHING to convince it to prepare for a real storm, because in a place where real estate and tourism are your sole economic bases, life is always more fantasy than real. That being so, Governor Skeletor would still be happy to see Tampa sink, since it does not love him. Now Miami, where the rethuglikkklan Cubans live, is a different story.

  27. noshoes Says:

    When you say "fuck the Gulf States, let the hypocrites drown," you're ignoring all of the people there who vote Democrat or Green and are NOT part of the Denial Government. The people who "can" vote down there are conservative or hard-right, but the majority of people who live there are not.

  28. Ten Bears Says:

    Great Lake cities are looking pretty attractive …

    The Yukon is looking pretty attractive right now.

    Our changing atmosphere doesn't give a flying fig about mice, and the best laid plans of men.

  29. gzt Says:

    I would just note that 100 and 500 year designations typically refer to *hitting that location*. So while they are certainly occurring more frequently than one would think, but it's not *that* bad.

  30. Jestbill Says:

    @Democommie: FWIW When I start this site, Kaspersky says it's trying to make an untrustworthy connection. Only the past coupla days.

    If we actually had intelligent people among the PTB we'd already have stopped adding CO2 to the atmosphere. As it is, we will really need to get it out of the oceans.

    "Mitigation" is forever: something's gotta give–yesterday.

  31. SunilR Says:

    @Major Kong: Good one! Still one of my favorite moments in that film:

  32. mothra Says:

    Oh, there are ways to protect low-lying cities from storm surges off the coast. See, e.g. The Netherlands. They are expensive, though, and require government investment, so Republicans refuse to consider them.

  33. Denis Goulet Says:

    The Texas "let's secede from the union" talk is pretty muffled today

  34. democommie Says:

    @ Denis Goulet:

    That's alright, they will remember, by this time next year that it was caused by the Great Lakes International Compact, engineered by Obama!

  35. Linda Says:

    You left out that it is flooding Houston a shitload worse because all the wetlands that absorbed water before have been filled in and paved, and therefore have made flooding much worse. Because ecology is for pussies.

    If you treat Nature, or any part of reality like the enemy to be conquered, you will be fucked.

  36. disgusted Says:

    Democrat, Republican, White, Brown, Yellow or green. All people deserve to have some compassion when they lose everything. I'm disheartened by the comments made here. Isn't this what you complained about when the Reps tried to take health care away…. that they had no heart? I am pissed at those who voted for the liar-in-chief but come on. they don't deserve to lose everything or die.

  37. Linda Says:

    Disgusted, you are right. But as a native of Michigan, I felt the contempt of Texans, and their smugness towards"black taggers" who tried to resettle in Texas in the 80s. They were quick to blame the failures of the auto industry on lazy doped up unionized workers. Because we had economic misfortunes, and they were rolling in petrodollars, it was God's evidence of their moral superiority. So I can grasp the bitterness in this thread.

  38. Michael Says:

    As an American, I'm appalled and miserable.

    As a human, I cannot be clear enough: GTFO of Red America. It's not going to go well there.

  39. wetcasements Says:

    "When you say 'fuck the Gulf States, let the hypocrites drown,'"

    Honestly, that's not what I'm seeing here. Just a further irony of late capitalism that the people getting fucked hardest by GOP climate change denial tend to vote GOP.

    A Thomas Frank moment, if you will.

    And I'm not happy about it, I'm terrified. As usual. If people can't be motivated by basic self interest Democracy is over.

  40. democommie Says:

    @ disgusted:

    Pointing out the hypocrisy of the Trumpliguturdlicans is not even close to ACTIVELY working towards the goal of disenfranchising minorities; hurting the less fortunate; demonizing gays and a host of other GOP wetdreams.

  41. mago Says:

    So who gets the credit for this storm and fury?
    Any answers lil baby Jesus?

  42. Ten Bears Says:

    Texas "cowboy" comes up to Eastern Oregon gonna' show us old Buckaroos how it's done. Stops to the French Glen Hotel for a cold can of Oly, puffs himself up and says "I get up in morning before dayligjt and get in my truck and when the sun goes down I'm still on my ranch!"

    Old Oregon High Desert Baquero drops his boots from the table to the floor, settles his chair back on to four legs, leans forward as he pushes his chapeau back on his head and says…

    EYup, I used to have truck like that.

  43. Major Kong Says:

    Having lived there, it seems that Texans never tire of patting themselves on the back for being from Texas.

  44. democommie Says:

    @ Ten Bears:

    There's a similar sorta story involving an Alaskan, a Texan, a bridge and a need to urinate.

    Cold. Yep, deep, too!

  45. Matt Says:

    The most galling thing I've seen was a Houston-area pol insisting that zoning to control flood risks would "constrain growth" – the article pointed out that the adjacent county, with *stricter* rules, was growing faster.

    The GOP has shifted from a party offering possible solutions with terrible side-effects to a straight-up con job offering nothing *but* the negative side-effects.

  46. Safety Man! Says:

    @ disgusted

    Nothing to do with Trump, years ago after Sandy hit a raft of Texas representatives made protest votes against hurricane relief for states hit by Sandy, and we're also told Katrina. Texans did not vote them out for being horrible human beings (notice I'm not mentioning anything else, like healthcare), so it's only fair that those states vote against hurricane relief for Texas. Petty? Yes. But people need to wise the hell up that this isn't some game. Texas' representatives made their choice, and should be held accountable.

  47. Major Kong Says:

    Molly Ivins used to call the Texas legislature "The national laboratory for bad government".

  48. Aurora S Says:

    I have a suspicion that Republicans ignore climate change not only because they want to continue (resource-extracting) business as usual without those pesky regulations requiring them to clean up after themselves, but because it leaves poor and minority populations disproportionately holding the bag. What's it this time around? The hurricane was sent to cleanse Texas of all those pesky Mexicans? God is unhappy with immigration policy and wants his wall, dammit!

  49. Katydid Says:

    @SafetyMan!: don't forget, Katrina devastated New Orleans, a cosmopolitan city with many blah people (some living in deep poverty), a city that's (mostly, sort-of) tolerant of gay people. If there's anything that pisses a Dominionist/Fundagelical KKKristyun off, it's people living their own lives as they see fit and enjoying life in ways the Dominionist/Fundie doesn't control.

    That said, I've been reading for the past couple of days how the we-the-people from Texas stepped up and helped out their Louisiana neighbors, and now their neighbors are returning the favor. It seems the people are better than their leaders, which makes you wonder why they keep electing said leaders.

    P.S. Someone needs to say to Ted Cruz's face that he opposed aid for victims of Sandy, and now he should have to live with his decision that the gov't is not here to help the people. Just to see his expression, I mean.

  50. seniorscrub Says:

    Katydid re: Cruz's expression.
    How would you be able to tell a difference? He always looks like he just bit a rancid lemon.

  51. gromet Says:

    Cruz and Cornyn said in 2013 and are saying now that they opposed Sandy relief because the bill included "billions in unrelated spending." Sensible people pointed out that the spending was indeed related to recovery, but no matter — what the Senators from NY and NJ should do this week is lard the Harvey relief bill with as much unrelated spending as they can jam into it. For projects in their own states that actually are as unrelated to recovery as the Texas senators claimed the Sandy money was. Then see how principled Mssrs Cruz and Cornyn are when the vote comes up. I predict their principles evaporate because they're not principles at all — they're just words masking envy and cruelty. And that's fine — I really don't want to punish any Texans for their senators' goonish hypocrisy. But I do want to take advantage of that hypocrisy.

  52. Katydid Says:

    Also remember, New Orleans didn't "deserve" help because 1) they're a city and therefore not Rill Murkkkuh, 2) they sometimes use French words (like "beignet") and Rill Murkkkuns are terrified of anything that smacks of culture and 3) a lot of poor people don't own cars because it's easy and cheap to take public transportation (but that kept them from fleeing the city because the streetcars don't run to other states).

    New Jersey didn't "deserve" help because it's a COASTAL CITY so fuck 'em, obviously (sarcasm alert).

    @Gromet; that's a brilliant idea.

  53. John Doheny Says:

    Seems like a lot of people here have a very cliche version of what "Texas" is. Houston is majority black, votes democratic, and had, until recently, a lesbian mayor.

  54. Major Kong Says:

    Houston also gave us Enron and Tom Delay (suburbs) so they've got a lot to make up for.

  55. democommie Says:

    "they sometimes use French words (like "beignet")"

    You misspelteted "binyay".

    @ Major Kong:

    People in Omaha have not fond memories of Enron gutting Northern Natural Gas and then moving what was left to Houston.

  56. Ursula Says:

    Someone mentioned above the geography implied in the "100 year event" terms so it isn't "that bad". However, everyone seems to forget that Houston has had these kinds of floods each year for the past three years now. The Memorial Day flood of 2015 and the Tax Day flood of 2016 were both considered "100 year floods" and this one is being talked about as an "800 year" event. On top of these, we have a climate-change denier in charge of flood planning for the city who is more concerned with "development" than being prepared for worsening floods. I seriously want to smack that asshat and shout at him that development and growth don't mean shit when they're flooded out every goddamn year.

    As for me, personally, I'm marooned in Portland, OR, where I had been on vacation since the 18th. I had planned to go home on Monday, but that flight was canceled and I rebooked for Thursday. Well, that was canceled today because Hobby is closed indefinitely. I could get to other nearby cities but I don't want to book a flight until I know I can get a bus ticket into downtown and that doesn't seem likely right now.

    So, instead, since I had planned to be out of work until the 5th and I can stay with them for free, I'm flying into Chicago on Thursday to stay with family in Wisconsin for a few days. Meanwhile, I'm trying to enjoy an unexpected few more nights in Portland while getting updates on my 15-pound orange fur baby (cat) who is currently at my friend's apartment with her two small dogs, kitten, and her father and his dog. His house near Tomball is flooded but her place is in Midtown, which has been largely dry, on the third floor. I live in a different part of Midtown (just below HCC), also on the third floor, so thankfully, I'm not worried about property damage.

    I just really want to go home right now.

  57. Major Kong Says:

    I actually worked on Enron's billing systems as a subcontractor back in my IT days.

  58. democommie Says:

    @ Major Kong:

    I went to school with several people who were middle to middle upper level management (they were apparently devout enough to escape the headman's axe when Northern Natural Gas took the gas pipe) at Enron.

    In the event, two of them had LOTS of "money" in Enron stock. One, who is a decent person, saw her pile shrink from $8M to $40K when the company folded. The other, who still lives in Houston and can't be bothered to show up for reunions was somehow allowed to convert her stock to cash before the free market freed the rest of the stockholders of the cash chains they were bound with. She's as popular with other former employees as Calvin Coolidge would be at Boston Patrolman's Association picnic in 1920.

  59. Ursula Says:

    @ Major Kong
    @ democommie

    Apropos of nothing, I just want to boast that I have the privilege of working in the older Enron building.

  60. Katydid Says:

    @Ursula; very sorry to hear you can't get home right now.

  61. Berkeley '74 Says:

    Welcome to your future. The multi-year recovery effort is most likely to be interrupted by more of the same. The question is now on the table, what to do with major cities that are too close to the water line and are likely to be hit by such storms on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. How do you economically move several million people to higher ground along with the infrastructure of an entire city. There is nothing in the cards that is going to cool off the atmosphere and oceans. The extra heat and energy added to the system by the accumulating greenhouse gases is only going to exacerbate the situation. This isn't Rocket Science people, this is simple chemistry and physics. The adjustment is going to be painful even if it started decades ago before the continued population growth. It will be especially silly if everyone continues business as usual and attempts to rebuild this city where it stands today. Sorry, it ain't going to work out.

  62. Tom Says:

    anyone read the TS report stating that iiiii surveillance programs have a
    stronger effect on global temperatures than CO_2 concentration?

  63. democommie Says:

    Hey, Tom, whatever you're trying to say is prolly nonsense but it would have to be in plain, concise, logical english in order for anyone to know.

  64. Tom Says:

    democommie, which word is confusing you?

  65. Townsend Harris Says:

    "TS report" ?
    "iiiii surveillance programs" ?
    I haven't had so much reading to catch up on since Lyndon LaRouche created the National Caucus of Labor Committees in the 1960s!
    Thanks, Tom.

  66. Tom Says:

    expanding the acronyms will flag this thread. they're not very
    cryptic — shouldn't be two hard for my favou?rite commies.

  67. democommie Says:

    Tom, honey. If it's gonna getcha flagged it's obviously pornographic, a physical threat or–OH, THE HUMANITY–even dumber than the usual shit you put here. You're an idiot, that's not new information for anyone except, prolly, you.

    Bye, troll.

  68. Tom Says:

    democommie, I love it when you project your insecurities.

  69. democommie Says:

    Tommy:

    I'm not the least bit insecure in my assessment of you as a mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, p.o.s. troll.

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