Disaster Prevention Is Difficult. Climate Change Makes It Strong


(This is not to say that fire agencies like Calfire are no better at what they do. The successful evacuation of South Lake Tahoe is proof of that: more than 20,000 people were evacuated, before the fire reached edge of the city.)

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Like fire, one of the factors that drive storms is heat. “The coastal ocean is warming up with heat,” said Misra, of Florida State University. When Hurricane Ida moved into the Gulf of Mexico, it ate up abnormally hot water, resulting in fierce winds like the hurricane hit.

Storms are complex surprises, of course, so there are other factors at play, such as the state of the air at a given time. Scientists need more data to fully understand the trend toward rapid recovery. Warmer water, according to Misra, “does not necessarily mean that all storms that come in the long run will result in more powerful than current storms. But there must be a sound alarm.”

As well, necessarily, the fact that a warmer condition retains more moisture. “Under the right conditions, if there is convection, then more moisture will be pumped out of the same volume of air in the future warmer climate than in the current climate,” Misra said. “That’s why the threat of a tropical cyclone – whether it intensifies rapidly or not regularly in the future – is even greater, with a lot of rain coming out.” The wind of a storm is weakened once it lands, because it no longer feeds on the hot water of the stream. But it still continues to pour heavy rains into the land, which could lead to severe flooding throughout the southern and eastern states.

Hurricane forecasters can accurately predict the course of storms days ahead of time, providing states and local governments with valuable data to announce evacuations; these models worked, and they saved many lives. But climate change will create new challenges for modeling, as it changes how storms behave. “Most of our weather prediction models have no reason to predict fast movement,” Misra said. “So it’s a big problem for preparation to minimize the impact of the storm.”

The extreme severity of natural disasters today also makes it even more difficult for citizens to avoid their own disaster. “People set expectations based on their prior experience, and this thing isn’t in people’s experience,” says Ann Bostrom, a risk -averse communications researcher at the University of Washington. “A storm or wildfire ramping up to a much higher speed is faster than people have ever experienced.” A person who could have safely stayed home in one of the disasters 20 years ago – because they refused to leave or did nothing – may find themselves in serious disaster today. .

While the rapid growth of the storm is a danger to all, it is the worst for people who do not have the resources to get out immediately. “A lot of people who live on the coast are either the richest or the poorest,” said Kyle Burke Pfeiffer, director of the National Preparedness Analytics Center at Argonne National Laboratory. And for the poor, he continues, “they may not have access to a car, or they may not have the funds or ability to leave their job or their home. And, in many cases, they live in structures that have not been engineered to withstand the external loads that put them at various dangers, such as hurricanes. ”

California has a similar problem: Astronomical housing prices along the coast have pushed many people east into the state’s wildland urban interface, where towns meet in the woods. Paradise is a town like South Lake Tahoe. “In a lot of people in places – and really [the areas are] more dry – leading to multiple ignitions near communities, ”said Cova, of the University of Utah. So the fire is likely to start near the town and fast moving. “Evacuations are affected, because available time can be less than you need, like Paradise.” Retirees, in particular, flock to the areas, but any elderly residents with mobility problems will find it difficult to evacuate as the fire approaches.



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