ScienceDaily (Mar. 1, 2008) — A team of scientists have found that the economic damages from hurricanes have increased in the U.S. over time due to greater population, infrastructure, and wealth on the U.S. coastlines, and not to any spike in the number or intensity of hurricanes.
“We found that although some decades were quieter and less damaging in the U.S. and others had more land-falling hurricanes and more damage, the economic costs of land-falling hurricanes have steadily increased over time,” said Chris Landsea, one of the researchers as well as the science and operations officer at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami. “There is nothing in the U.S. hurricane damage record that indicates global warming has caused a significant increase in destruction along our coasts.”
In a newly published paper in Natural Hazards Review, the researchers also found that economic hurricane damage in the U.S. has been doubling every 10 to 15 years. If more people continue to move to the hurricane-prone coastline, future economic hurricane losses may be far greater than previously thought.
“Unless action is taken to address the growing concentration of people and property in coastal hurricane areas, the damage will increase by a great deal as more people and infrastructure inhabit these coastal locations,” said Landsea.
The Natural Hazards Review paper, “Normalized Hurricane Damage in the United States: 1900-2005,” was written by Roger A. Pielke Jr. (University of Colorado), Joel Gratz (ICAT Managers, Inc.), Chris Landsea, Douglas Collins (Tillinghast-Towers Perrin), Mark A. Saunders (University College London), and Rade Musulin (Aon Re Australia).
The team used two different approaches, which gave similar results, to estimate the economic damages of historical hurricanes if they were to strike today, building upon the work published originally by Landsea and Pielke in 1998, and by Collins and Lowe in 2001. Both methods used changes in inflation and wealth at the national level. The first method utilized population increases at the county coastal level, while the second used changes in housing units at the county coastal level.
The results illustrate the effects of the tremendous pace of growth in vulnerable hurricane areas. If the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane were to hit today, the study estimated it would cause the largest losses at $140 billion to $157 billion, with Hurricane Katrina second on the list at $81 billion.
The team concludes that potential damage from storms – currently about $10 billion yearly – is growing at a rate that may place severe burdens on exposed communities, and that avoiding huge losses will require a change in the rate of population growth in coastal areas, major improvements in construction standards, or other mitigation actions.
Adapted from materials provided by National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration
Riverdance - still drawing the crowds
By Emma Harris
IT'S still here – and it's still drawing the crowds. As work continues in the hope of refloating the stricken ferry Riverdance, local firms continue to reap the benefits of a huge out-of-season influx of visitors.
Salvage crews say there is a "window of opportunity" to right the 6,000-ton vessel between tomorrow and March 13 – although latest reports suggest any operation is likely to be towards the end of that period.
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The ferry has been stuck on the beach since she was hit by a freak wave on February 1 during a journey from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland to Heysham.
At the start of February, traders in Cleveleys and Anchorsholme reported big increases in sales.
Stephen Schofield, manager of Anchorsholme Service Station, said: "I would have mixed feelings about it going.
"It does seem to have become a new tourist attraction and has made us a lot busier.
"The weekends in particular have seen more people coming, but because there are no public toilet facilities in Anchorsholme Park we have had a lot of people coming in to use ours."
Steve Hardy, managing director of Cleveleys Kitchen, on Victoria Road West, said he would be sorry to see Riverdance go, as it had been of interest to many people and boosted business by more than 100 per cent.
He said: "In the first two weeks it did increase trade, so much so that we had to taken on extra staff because the end of January is normally our quiet time.
"It made a big difference, but as time went on it has got quieter.
"We are still getting more people at the weekend and when the weather is good though."
Sunday's fine weather saw a steady stream of visitors again taking time out to see the stricken ferry during low tide, but poor weather conditions earlier in the weekend hampered the on-going salvage operation.
Tony Redding, spokesman for Seatruck Ferries, said: "The bad weather on Friday and Saturday prevented any progress being made.
"The intention is still to right it and refloat it, but it's more likely to be at the end of the time period given."
And Ian Jackson, duty operations manager for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: "We are still very confident of getting the ship upright and see the next week as crucial to our operation."
Students and Internet users everywhere can now follow along as scientists dive through kelp forests, swim alongside whales and otters and otherwise study the vast underwater world of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
"We're allowing students and Internet viewers to experience the underwater world of Monterey Bay without even getting wet," said Sarah Marquis, spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Sanctuary Program.
"The goal is to increase ocean literacy," said Dawn Hayes, education outreach coordinator for the National Marine Sanctuary Program. "We really want to make the connection between students on land, no matter where they live, and the ocean."
The National Marine Sanctuary Program teamed up with the University of Rhode Island and the Mystic Aquarium & the Institute for Exploration to broadcast 30-minute shows live online and on Internet2, the noncommercial academic and government Internet, to 54 Boys and Girls Clubs of America and 30 other sites across the country.
The shows are broadcast live from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's research vessel, the Fulmar, and from special underwater cameras that follow scientists and ROVs as they dive beneath the waves.
The science education program is called Immersion Presents, and can be viewed by
Immersion Presents was founded in 2002, but the shows this week represent the first time the National Marine Sanctuary Program has broadcast special underwater shows from a marine sanctuary.
Shows are introduced by scientists and educators at the University of Rhode Island, then cut to Hayes on the "topside" — meaning on the deck of the Fulmar.
Viewers see either diving scientists or views from an ROV armed with cameras. The Fulmar has two ROVs, the large "Hercules" and the smaller "Hylas," named after Hercules' little buddy in Greek mythology.
The shows present the many inhabitants of the bay's kelp forest, marine animal migrations, how ROVs work and sandy bottom creatures, among other topics. In Monday's broadcast, for example, viewers learned that the leafy hornmouth, a marine snail, grows its own crowbar — a special tooth on its shell at the edge of its mouth that it uses to pry open barnacles and other tasty treats.
The idea to broadcast live explorations of Monterey Bay was initiated in discussions between friends Robert Ballard, oceanographer and co-founder of Immersion Presents, and Daniel Bosta, director of the National Marine Sanctuary Program, Hayes said.
"The program just blossomed from there," Hayes said.
Live shows began broadcasting Sunday, and air every hour on the hour between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. They will continue filming through Friday. Archived shows are available on the site at any time.
It's important that these shows are live, Hayes said, because students or anyone watching online can send in questions to be answered in real time by scientists.
The questions are fed to the University of Rhode Island, then beamed to Steve Lonhart, the show's senior scientist. If he's underwater, as he often is, he hears questions through an ear phone he wears inside a special scuba mask. He can both hear and talk using the mask, which is connected by cables to broadcasting equipment on board the Fulmar.
"It's really interesting being underwater and being able to hear someone asking a question from the East Coast," Lonhart said. "Most of them were pretty good questions, from a scientific perspective. Kids were interested in the kinds of animals down there. They were interested in the interactions between animals."
Lonhart and underwater photographer Mark Carroll demonstrated their marine interaction. Carroll's waterproof camera has such a wide lens that he films just inches from Lonhart's face, which is clad in its special mask. Lonhart said this made him nervous the first time down, but he's used to the ever-present camera lens now.
Lonhart pulled his mask off after a few seconds.
"It seals so well to my face, and since I'm not hooked up to a tank right now, I couldn't breathe," he said.
Kimberly Pratt, fifth-grade teacher at Alvarado Elementary in Union City, said the entire fifth grade at her school watched Monday's shows from the school cafeteria. Pratt teaches her classes about river and ocean debris and littering, so the ocean broadcasts fit into her curriculum, she said.
"The kids were really excited," Pratt said. "They just loved it."