Monday, February 2, 2009

Treacherous Ice Storms in Kentucky—What is Gaia Saying to Us?


Keeping with the theme of climate—and climate change—this time last year (January-end, 2008) I was in Louisville, Kentucky, unknowingly braving the devastating effects of an unseasonal tornado. Commanding a 100 mph wind, it tore up concrete and roofs off houses, uprooted trees and flung huge signs hurtling into cars. The tornado set down twice, once just metres from my friend’s house and knocked out the power in large sections of Louisville for days. How did I not know, you ask. It was night time and I’d never experienced a tornado before…And I was in Kentucky—not Kansas (LOL!). I remember huddling in the dark cold of my friend’s house for hours in the dead of night (while she worked the graveyard shift at the airport), writing to the flickering light of a candle, with a blanket wrapped around me to keep warm, and listening to the raging wind.

Flash forward to this past week (January, 2009), as Kentucky faces its worst-ever natural disaster: over 600,000 Kentuckians are without power (200,000 without water) following major ice storms that struck a large section of the Midwestern United States across nine states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Virginia.

Last week (January 25th and 26th) about two inches of ice covered trees, power lines and the ground. It snapped branches, uprooted whole trees, and spread debris and ice sheets across roads. Power was cut in over 1.3 million residents and businesses. The storm moved into the Northeast, dropping snow from Ohio to Main and ice in Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Kentucky was the hardest hit in what is being called the worst power outage in that state’s history, and only months after Hurricane Ike ravaged the state. Governor Steve Beshear ordered the largest call-up of National Guard forces in Kentucky state history as over half a million homes and businesses remain in the dark, including close to 200,000 in Louisville. Said Beshear, “Because of the severe winter weather condition, this will be a much more difficult and dangerous restoration task than what we faced following Hurricane Ike.”

"Louisville residents on Sunday — without power for yet a sixth day in a row — described a city struggling to adapt to a new status quo. Fuel shortages and restrictions were common at the busiest gas stations. Along many city streets, entire rows of cars were frozen in place, trapped under fallen tree trunks and branches," reports James Snyder of the Times.

I have a few dear friends in Louisville and I hope they’re okay. I haven’t heard from some of them in a while, so I’m just praying that they are warm and safe. This too shall pass…

Power may not be restored until mid-February in the hardest hit areas of Kentucky and Arkansas. Meantime, people are trying to keep warm and many have fled to hotels (which are giving people a break in cost) or shelters. The ice storm has already caused over 40 deaths related to traffic hazards (e.g., slippery roads, faulty traffic signals, etc.), hypothermia, and carbon-monoxide poisoning. As the power outage continues and supplies run out, Kentuckians who can travel are being urged to go south out-of-state to warmer climates until power, water and associated services can be restored.

But, just as with the treacherous fog in Vancouver last week, Kentuckian photographers stepped into the chaos of the ice-damage to marvel at Nature’s cruel beauty…and take pictures.

Well, you knew I had to bring up my thoughts on climate change, didn’t you?

I posted several articles already that touch on this subject. I touched upon the chaotic nature and interrelatedness of climate and weather in my post on chaos theory. In two blog posts, Climate Change & the Nobel Peace Prize” and “Blog Action Day—Truth”, I devote lengthy discussion to the dedicated work of Al Gore, his film, “the Inconvenient Truth” and generate lively discussion on the topic (check out the comments pages!). In “Tornadoes Connected to Global Waming?” I described my own personal experience with the historic unseasonal tornadoes in the US earlier this year and how some believe this is related to climate change and is a sign of more to come. In “Polar Cities” I describe Dan Bloom’s concept for surviving the aftermath of global warming and explore the need for paradigm changes. Then in “The Complexity of Nature” I discuss how perspective plays a role in our perception of both our future and that of our planet.

In my series on Climate Change, I quoted Clive Thompson of Wired Magazine in a compelling article on “How the Next Victim of Climate Change Will Be Our Minds”. Thompson described the psychological phenomenon of solastalgia, coined by Glenn Albrecht (professor at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle) as “The homesickness you feel when you’re still at home,” to suggest the impact of climate change on our mental health.

I left off with a discussion—actually a series of questions—related to “scale” and whether or not we should intervene, when everything that we are and do is PART of the global network already. Is it simply that we are being hubristic once again by seeing things from a strictly anthropomorphic view? Perhaps, it isn’t our place to succeed, but rather to secede to something more suited to what is yet to come… I’d like to think that it may be neither, rather that these global events will hasten our own evolution into a higher form—But, as with the last time I brought this up, I am getting ahead of myself…I promise to address this in a later post. I PROMISE.

Meantime, my burning question is this: What is Gaia saying to us? ...Or is the proper question: What are we saying to OURSELVES?

Because, aren't WE GAIA?...















18 comments:

Bobbi said...

I live in Harrodsburg, Kentucky and our neighborhood looks like a war-zone! Thankfully, we got power back on Saturday, but there are still thousands of people without electricity.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It;'s the same in Britain, Nina. The country is covered in snow and getting worse. It looks very bad tomorrow.

SF Girl said...

Oh, lucky Harrodsburg, Bobbi. I'm glad for you. It's so awful. I especially feel for the elderly who can't get around. Apparently some nursing homes were hit with power-outage too. I still haven't heard from my friends in Louisville ...

SF Girl said...

Jean-Luc... what's happening in Birmingham? Sounds like you are having colder weather than is usual...We got a spate of snow here too--atypical for Vancouver. My son loves it though; it's great for skiing the local hills.

Mike Goad said...

We live in Arkansas and the forecast had us getting the worst of it. We were lucky and only got about a quarter of an inch of ice -- and never even had our lights flicker.

Climate change is upon us and I, for one, am a little fearful that the global warming folks have it wrong by 180°. This winter may be but the beginning.

The Sun's sunspot activity is way down as is other indications of it's activity and is not rising as is expected during the eleven-year sunspot cycle. I've written more on it in a post The Sun Has Lost Its Spots.

SF Girl said...

Cool post about sun spots, Mike. Thanks for the link. Yes, the whole issue of climate and climate change is indeed a complex one. I am certain that we will see much more of what you experienced in Arkansas...strange weather patterns, new paradigms...stable chaos?...

Mike Goad said...

One of the really chaotic things about the Sun that I read was a paper which said that the Sun's activity changes in complex cycles based primarily on the gravitational effects of the gas giants which pull and shift its plasma as they orbit.

Talk about butterfly effect...

dan said...

Very very good post, SF Girl, and yes, WE are Gaia, part of Gaia, and what is Gaia saying to us, you ask? SHE is telling to beware the Ides of March. And also this: to be very very careful how we live our lives and to jettison our fossil fuel addicted lifestyles NOW. As Jesse Ausubel said in 1989 and as i quote him in my new action work called "A Virtual Graduation Speech to the Class of 2099", http://tufts2099.blogspot.com ---- "We must tighten the noose around coal".

THAT is what Gaia telling us. But I fear it is too late. Time to start packing for polar cities in our future, year 2500 or so. The next 500 years will be okay, nada to worry about. The shite will hite the fane in 2500. Beware!

Anonymous said...

The temptation we have is to look at any unusual weather or year-long trend of weather and think it is because of global warming. This is just confounding weather and climate.

All a cold year or a hot year like 1998 (strong El Nino Southern Oscillaion-->ENSO) or 2005, 2007, mean is that we've had a cold or hot year. It may very well be linked to the global warming issue (i.e. increase in atmospheric CO2), but we generally cannot determine that.

And even looking at trends over 5 or 8 years can, and has, led people astray. For example, Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 blew up good and global temperatures cooled down by about 1 degree C. The 8-year trends starting in 1986, 87 and 88 are all negative/cooling trends.

Then 8-year trends starting in 92, 93, 94 show an exaggerated degree of warming as the effects lessen. The link here

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/01/uncertainty-noise-and-the-art-of-model-data-comparison/

is about the use of short-term trends. Caveat: I didn't bother running the data to see if those negative and exaggerated warming trends were statistically significant or not...I'm just using them as an example of how things like that can affect short-term trend readings.

The ENSO is another event that can give misleading short-term trends. 1998 was a strong ENSO so short-term trends around that may be misleading. Likewise the year 2008 was cool so any short-term trends starting in 2008, 2009 may be misleading. Incidentally, 2008 was predicted to be cool in late 2007, and again in Jan/Feb 2008 due to La Nina (see link)

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080211132843.htm

There have been attempts to take out the ENSO to see what climate trends would look like without the ENSO creating extra 'noise' or exaggerated trends (the same long-term trend emerges with or without the ENSO anyway). This article here

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/07/global-trends-and-enso/#more-577

covers that, and links to some different ways this was tried (admittedly all imperfect). Some good points and counterpoints along with more links are hidden in the comments.

Now for something completely different, or at least fun, this link below is for the handy-dandy graphing sunspot plotter

http://www.spaceweather.com/glossary/sunspotplotter.htm

for anyone who is interested in knowing what the sunspots were doing on your birthday, or to see if hare populations actually do follow sunspot cycles, or if sunspot cycles are linked to your pet conspiracy theory, whatever it may be.

-Myrdinn

SF Girl said...

Excellent comments, Myrdinn, along with relevant links (Thanks!)

I still think Gaia is "talking" to us... :)

Anonymous said...

Oh yes...I agree...and she's been talking for a long time and not just through climate. That's just the latest tactic to get us to listen.

-Myrdinn

SF Girl said...

Yes, oh yes! Very well said, Myrdinn

SF Girl said...

BTW, I did finally hear from my friends in Louisville, and they are all okay. :D

Jean-Luc Picard said...

We were lucky, Nina...just a mild snowstorm. London & the south coast got it bad...22 inches in certain southern villages in one night.

SF Girl said...

WOW! Twenty-two inches! Interesting... My son may move over there! LOL!

Rumpleteazer said...

You pictures on this post are beautiful. I think we may have seen the last of the snow in the UK this year - it is apparently getting warmer next week. Still darn cold here today though!

SF Girl said...

Glad to hear that it's finally warming up in the UK, Rumpleteazer. We just had another bit of snow here in the lower mainland of British Columbia...unheard of... We are definitely in for some interesting times. And all this "atypical" weather IS a function of climate change. The anecdotal information is too overwhelming.

Meantime, Kentucky is still recovering from the fallout of its icestorms. I heard that Louisville recently endured a 70 mph wind that knocked out power yet again... You'd think that Kentucky and the other states in Tornado Alley would have some of the best most skookum architecture in the world...

SF Girl said...

p.s. How did Harrodsburg fare this time, Bobbi? Where is it in relation to Louisville? Guess I could check google maps... LOL!