Super storm Sandy that made landfall in southern New Jersey on Oct. 29 has caused mass destruction across the East coast. What has it left in its wake?
The storm that started out as ‘Tropical Depression 18’ in the southwestern Caribbean Sea a little over a week ago initially set foot in the Caribbean Islands of Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba. After gaining momentum, it forged ahead towards the East Coast battering anything that came in its way.
Life came to a standstill as Super storm Sandy made landfall at New York City and New Jersey leaving over 6.6 million homes and businesses in a blackout. According to NBC News the storm has caused 68 deaths in the Caribbean alone and another 46 in US. No less than four towns in New Jersey are under 6 feet of water. The subway system tattered by the storm, are not likely commence before the next 4-5 days. JFK and New Liberty Airports are likely to resume flight services only on Wednesday with limited services.
The major reason why the storm is so destructive is its absolute size says Nature News. As the storm drew near United States, the hurricane force winds raged at 118 km/hour, approximately 280 km from the center of the storm. Tropical storm winds outspread for up to 780 km from the center of the storm at 63 km/hr. The super storm bears its atypical characteristics from its unusual weather conditions under which it has developed. Before landfall the storm was looming over the warm waters of the Atlantic until it was made to drift inland by the high pressure system developed off Greenland. As a result of this, the warm currents met with the winter system from the west making it a winter storm. To add to this, the full moon made the storm more disruptive resulting in tides higher than normal.
The disturbing fact about these storms is that we could be looking at more such disasters in the future, where the world is likely to get warmer. Although one might not be able to blame a particular storm directly to global warming, scientists at Beijing Normal University have found big storm surges have significantly increased since 1929, which will make such disasters happen twice as many times in the warmer future, as they are happening now. Also events like melting of the Arctic ice and increasing open waters of the Arctic Ocean are likely to alter the jet stream in the Northern hemisphere leading to more such hurricanes. Also, higher sea levels are likely to increase the intensity of these hurricanes. But global warming isn’t the only factor that could affect the increase in such storms; natural variability could have it share in adding to the environmental menace. While the ocean surface temperatures are estimated to be 3 degrees above average, only 0.6 degrees of the number can be attributed to global warming states Nature News.Thus allowing ample room for natural variability.
The damage from Sandy alone is estimated to be around $10-$20 billion as per EQECAT a consultancy in Oakland, California. President Obama has put the campaign in the back seat to oversee the federal response. As far as the storm is concerned, it has lost its tropical hurricane status to being a winter storm and is believed to continue on its destructive path further north into Canada on Thursday and Friday