A black swan is an event or occurrence that deviates from what is normally expected of a situation, surprises the observer, has a major impact, and is difficult to predict. And Hurricane Sandy is the election season’s black swan. Here’s why:
Hurricane Sandy has broken all sorts of records. It’s barometric pressure is now 940 millibars, the strongest to ever hit the North Atlantic. By comparison, the pressure of Hurricane Wilma, the strongest pressure on record, was between 882-888. Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992, had an internal pressure of 922. It created a storm surge of nearly 17 feet and caused $27 billion of damage.
Sandy brought high storm surges to New Jersey and New York City, coinciding with a full moon and high tide. It has merged with a nor’easter to become a huge, hybrid storm impacting 60 million people in seven states. Millions will lose power. And it’s all happening 7-8 days before the presidential election. Millions of people will lose electrical power and some places may not have power for weeks, which is surely going to impact the presidential election on November 6.
Most meteorologists agree this storm is a result of global warming, an issue neither presidential candidate has addressed during this campaign. “The irony is that the two presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, and now they are seeing the climate speak to them,” said Mike Tidwell, director of Maryland’s Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “That’s really what’s happening here. The climate is now speaking to them — and to everyone else.”
Ironic? We call this synchronicity.
An unprecedented natural disaster, this black swan that’s shutting down the northeast, is rapidly clarifying the stark differences between Romney and Obama.
Romney has stated that FEMA –the Federal Emergency Management Administration that moves in after any disaster with food and supplies and rescue missions – should be relegated to the states or, better yet, privatized. Can you imagine? Privatized. That means that companies like Halliburton, who are contracted and paid by the U.S. government, who work for profit, move in.
When asked in June during a GOP debate if he would favor cutting off federal disaster relief, he said:
“We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”
Federal disaster relief is immoral? Huh? Romney is already distancing him from that comment. He suddenly thinks that FEMA is not so bad.
Obama, on the other hand, thinks that federal disaster relief is a moral duty. When asked what effect he thought Hurricane Sandy would have on the election he replied, “I’m not worried about the effect on the election. I’m worried about the effect on families, on our first responders, on our economy and on transportation.” He understands that only the federal government has the resources to cope with widespread devastation in the wake of natural disasters. No one should have to pay to be rescued from a rooftop.
Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the USA National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the world’s foremost experts on changes to global energy and water cycles, called Hurricane Sandy the “new normal.”
“Climate change is changing the weather,” Trenberth said. “The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change. The oceans are warmer and the atmosphere above the oceans is warmer and wetter. This new normal changes the environment for all storms and makes them more intense…”
How many more national disasters will it take before climate change becomes part of the national discourse? How many more black swans? How many more in-your-face synchros will it take?