500-year storms: many of you will be alive for the next one.

Someone has referred to once-hurricane, now tropical storm Harvey as a 500-year event, but even that designation has lost its luster since we seem to be experiencing 100-year events every few weeks.

Of course there’s a temptation when a storm such as Harvey threatens, then batters some part of the country, to attribute it to climate change. It isn’t that simple, and the fact that climate science has become so politicized renders any such statement as inherently controversial. It is true, of course, that hurricanes gather strength from warm water and that the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are a bit warmer this summer. But even that is more weather than climate, and drawing a parallel may be asking for trouble.

But the science of it all, of the forecasting—that’s impressive.

Last week Harvey was a minor nuisance in the Gulf of Mexico, yet meteorologists were predicting unprecedented rain totals and major hurricane-force winds. It all came to pass. (Watch the satellite map from late last week if you want to know what a storm looks like when it explodes.)

Without that science and predictions that residents heeded, more would have died. So far the death toll is two, and that’s likely to rise. It’s incontrovertible, though, that the advanced warnings—warnings being given before the hurricane had even formed(!)—saved countless lives. Meteorologists—scientists did that.

It’s funny how we don’t question those scientists when they say there’ll be an eclipse and tell us that the next one in a given area is 700 years away. And when they tell us not to look directly at the sun, we don’t look directly at the sun. Twenty-five years ago when studies proved said that reducing the use of chlorofluorocarbons could maybe heal the hole in the ozone layer, we went out and found (actually scientists went out and found) alternatives to CFCs…and it worked. They even know when the next high tide will be, and that we won’t see Mars again until a morning in September.

And yet when more than 95% of these same smart people warn us of the dangers of global warming, our president calls it a Chinese hoax, turns to Breitbart News for his information, then staffs the most critical areas of our government with climate deniers.

Trump plans to visit Texas tomorrow. He shouldn’t: he’ll merely be in the way of aid workers trying to feed and care for the dispossessed and others trying to save lives and property. Not only that, but someone who has shown a complete absence of empathy cannot be expected to commiserate with the victims of such a far-reaching, horrifying, and heartbreaking event. Let Trump reduce his “concern” to 140 characters and save himself another expensive trip—money better spent tending to the dire needs of Texas communities like Port Aransas, Ingleside, and Rockport.

 

 

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Chuck Radda

I'm a former high school English teacher, currently a literacy volunteer and novelist. I invite your responses right here or to chuckradda@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook and on Twitter—where I tweet annually at @chuckrad45.

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