Super-Storm Sandy: One Year Later

One year ago today, Super-storm Sandy slammed the New York City tri-state area.  Despite being downgraded from hurricane status just prior to landfall, Sandy was the second costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

Coming ashore with tropical storm-force winds at high tide, Sandy caused a record 13.88-foot storm surge.  It flooded many low-lying areas, including parts of the NYC subway system.  Damaging or destroying more than 650,000 homes, the massive storm displaced thousands of people for months.  According to NOAA, Sandy claimed the lives of 159 people and caused approximately $65 billion in property damage.  The storm also knocked out power to 8.5 million people for multiple days – including most of Manhattan south of 34th Street.

Sandy’s flooding storm surge also highlighted the dangers posed by rising sea levels.  In the wake of the storm, many government agencies – at all levels – began re-evaluating their strategies for dealing with future natural disasters.  The National Hurricane Center changed its policy for issuing warnings on post-tropical storms and is developing a new storm surge warming system. New York City’s Office of Emergency Management re-drew its hurricane evacuation zones. And, the National Flood Insurance Program, operated by FEMA, began implementing new policy rates for homes and businesses in flood prone areas.

While the arduous process of rebuilding is ongoing, progress has been made across the region.  Recovery levels vary by location.

Looking at Climate Change through the Arts

Art and science are joining forces to expand the public conversation on climate change. In New York City, throughout October and November, the science and impacts of our changing climate will be explored through various artistic lenses as part of Marfa Dialogues/NY.

This festival of events will include art exhibitions, installations, musical performances, and panel discussions throughout the city – all of which will be open to the public. Organizers say by bringing the creative community together with scientists and other experts, “the result is a more accessible public exploration of a complex but critical issue.”

This multi-venue event is presented by Ballroom Marfa – a cultural arts center in West Texas – and its partners The Public Concern Foundation and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Growing out of the Marfa Dialogue held in Texas last autumn, these three groups expanded the idea and brought it to NYC.  As we approach the first anniversary of Super-storm Sandy, New York City will no doubt offer a poignant backdrop to these projects and events.

For a list of participants and a calendar of events, visit

Wildfires in Australia

Wildfires are blazing across southeast Australia. Nearly sixty different fires are currently burning in the state of New South Wales –the country’s most populous region. The largest, nearly 190 miles wide, is burning in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney.

Since last Thursday, according to local officials, more than two hundred homes have been destroyed and at least one death has been reported. While the exact causes of these intense fires have not yet been identified, recent weather conditions have not been helpful.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, September 2012 to August 2013 was the country’s warmest twelve-month period on record. On top of that, the past few months have been unusually dry. These extended hot and parched conditions have dried out vegetation, which in turn, is helping to fuel the flames of this massive wildfire outbreak.

While wildfires are common in Australia during the summer, that season does not officially begin until December in the southern hemisphere.  The early start and widespread scope of the current fires are very unusual.

24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon

The online event, “24 Hours of Reality” begins tomorrow, October 22nd, at 11am PDT (2pm EDT).  This is the Climate Reality Project’s third annual live-streamed broadcast dedicated to discussing  climate change and encouraging solutions. The theme this year is “The Cost of Carbon”.

Over the course of twenty-four hours, experts from a wide array disciplines will discuss the impacts of carbon pollution – the root cause of climate change – on our planet. Each hour of the broadcast will highlight a different region of the world. The full schedule of topics and speakers can be found on the event’s webpage.

Tune into the broadcast at

WHO: Air Pollution Causes Cancer

Air pollution has long been linked to a number of health problems, including respiratory and heart diseases.  Now, it has been shown to cause cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, released a report on Thursday which concludes prolonged exposure to air pollution and particulate matter can cause lung cancer and increase the risk of bladder cancer.  Unlike some other environmental carcinogens, air pollution is nearly impossible to avoid, as we all need to breathe. Caused by vehicle exhaust, power generation, industrial emissions, and residential heating, its sources are ubiquitous.

While the report did not quantify risk by country, some places are more polluted than others. Here in the United States, the Clean Air Act has helped improve air quality in recent years. Nonetheless, pollution continues to cause health problems for many people across the country.

Globally, according to the IARC, air pollution contributed to 3.2 million pre-mature deaths in 2010 alone.  More than 200,000 of those were from lung cancer.

A Cyclone and Typhoon Batter India and Japan

Hurricanes can develop all over the world, but they are referred to by different names – cyclones or typhoons – in different regions. This past week, two separate storms slammed India and Japan.

In India, Cyclone Phailin barreled across the Bay of Bengal and made landfall in the state of Orissa on Saturday.  Packing winds of 131-mph, it was the equivalent of a category-4 hurricane. Local officials say the storm’s flooding rains and strong winds destroyed tens of thousands of homes and claimed the lives of at least twenty-seven people.  The government’s pre-storm evacuation of nearly one million people, however, is credited with keeping the number of fatalities from being much higher. Sadly, a cyclone that hit the same area fourteen years ago left approximately ten thousand people dead.

On Wednesday, Typhoon Wipha rumbled along the coast of Japan near Tokyo. With sustained winds of 78-mph, it was the equivalent of a category-1 hurricane.  This storm’s torrential rain caused rivers to overflow and triggered deadly mudslides. One of the hardest hit areas was Izu Oshima, an island about seventy-five miles south of the capital, where a record 32.44 inches of rain fell in one twenty-four period.  Officials say this powerful storm destroyed more than three hundred homes and caused the deaths of at least seventeen people. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Wipha was the eighth typhoon of 2013.

Back in the United States, the Atlantic hurricane season remains fairly quiet.

Weather History: NYC October Snowfall

October is not a month known for snow in New York City.  That said, it is not unheard of.

On this date back in 1979, snowflakes filled the air in the Big Apple.  Nothing accumulated, but it marked the earliest trace of snow on record for NYC.  According to the NWS, measurable snow, defined as 0.1 inches or more, has been recorded four times during the month of October.  The earliest occurred on October 15, 1876 when 0.5 inches was noted in Central Park.  The record for accumulation is 2.9 inches, which came down during the snowstorm of October 29, 2011.

While there is no snow currently in the forecast, the first nor’easter of the season is working its way up the coast. It is expected to bring the city rain, wind, and overall grey conditions during the next few days.

A Week of Wild Weather Across the U.S.

Extreme weather battered much of the United States this past week.  From heavy snow and tornadoes in the plains to a tropical storm in the Gulf and blustery Santa Ana winds in California, this country saw it all in just six days.

Starting on Tuesday, a pre-season winter storm dumped massive amounts of snow across Wyoming and South Dakota. Some places, like Deadwood, SD received as much as 48 inches.

On Wednesday, the NWS named Tropical Storm Karen. Moving north across the Gulf of Mexico, it threatened coastal communities from Louisiana to Florida with heavy rain and storm surge flooding.  Luckily, however, the storm was downgraded to a rainstorm by the time it came ashore.

By Friday, the cold air that produced the blizzard in the northern plains collided with warm moist air to the east and unleashed severe thunderstorms across the region.  They, in turn, spawned numerous tornadoes.  One of the hardest hit areas was Wayne, NE where an EF-4 twister with winds measured up to 170-mph tore through the town.  While widespread property damage and numerous injuries were reported, there were no fatalities.

Over the weekend, powerful Santa Ana winds blasted southern California with gusts reaching 90-mph in some areas.  These warm, dry winds helped fuel a large wildfire in San Diego County.

While extreme weather events are not unusual in this country, having such a large number and wide variety happen more-or-less at once is very rare.

NYC Monthly Summary: September 2013

September 2013 was a bit of a weather roller coaster in New York City.  We had high temperatures that ranged from a sweltering 96°F to a cool 65°F.  All together, though, the city’s average monthly temperature was 68°F, which is exactly normal.  Transitioning from summer to autumn, these wide fluctuations are not that unusual.

In terms of precipitation, the city was mostly dry.  We received 2.95 inches of rain in Central Park, most of which fell during two separate heavy downpours. Nonetheless, we were still 1.33 inches below normal.  September now marks the third consecutive month that the city received below average rainfall.

Sept_tempsGraph Credit: The Weather Gamut