Here’s a press release we got today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 26, 2012
Statement by Brad Johnson, campaign manager of Forecast the Facts and ClimateSilence.org:
“If the candidates won’t listen to the voters demanding they break their climate silence, maybe they will listen to Mother Nature’s October Surprise. We know the candidates will be asked about Hurricane Sandy, and will express their sympathy with those affected. They will rightly applaud the first responders, the compassion of neighbors, and the strength and resolve of the American people. But what their role as national leaders demands that they also do is explain that Hurricane Sandy is a true Frankenstorm, a monster created by man tampering with nature with oil, coal, and gas pollution.”
It’s worth looking at Wikipedia’s list of New Jersey hurricanes for comparison. Doing a little data reduction by eye, it looks like October hurricanes come roughly every 5-10 years. The last one in that area was 1995, so we’re either a little overdue or right about average.
Looking at Roger Pielke, Jr.’s blog, we find the predicted damage along with a convenient map. Here’s an excerpt of the report:
The tool shows the storm parameters, the damage at the time of landfall, and the estimated damage if the storms were to make landfall in 2012. The 2012 damage estimations are made by “normalizing” the data by adjusting for population change, inflation, and change in wealth per capita.
The most damaging storm to make landfall within the current range of computer model forecasts was the New England hurricane of 1938, which would cause an estimated ~$47B in damage today. However, this storm was a category 3 hurricane when it made landfall, while Sandy is only expected to have category 1 force winds. Of the 7 storms selected, only two made landfall as category 1 hurricanes. Hurricane Agnes of 1972 made landfall with 85 mph sustained winds near New York City and would cause an estimated $19B in damage today. Agnes initially made landfall over the FL Panhandle, then moved NE and emerged off the NC coast. As it approached New England, the storm strengthened as it underwent extratropical transition, which is also expected to occur with Hurricane Sandy. Hurricane Agnes’s impacts were felt across a very wide area of the Northeast. Hurricane Belle of 1976 also had 85 mph winds, but moved much more quickly than Agnes and was weakening as it made landfall. It is estimated that Belle would cause less than $1B in damage today.
As can be seen from the storms selected by the ICAT Damage Estimator, the sample size of category 1 hurricanes making landfall along the Northeast is not very large. While Agnes appears to be the most similar to Sandy, it made landfall near New York City, which explains why the damage estimates are so high. Hurricane Irene of 2011 officially made landfall further south, but impacted a similar area that will be affected by Hurricane Sandy. That storm caused ~$7B in damage, but was not quite as strong as Sandy is expected to be. This data can be used as a benchmark to assess the range of possibilities for Sandy’s impact.
In other words, it’s a hurricane. Unusually late but not unprecedented, and right now they think Category One — which here on the Colorado Plains we call “a little too windy for the kites kids, but yes, you have to go to school.”