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As Cyclone Tauktae hurtled toward India’s west coast on May 17, a grim scenario outlined in Amitav Ghosh’s eloquent meditation on climate change, The Great Derangement, suddenly loomed as a distinct possibility. A direct hit on the megapolis of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, Ghosh wrote, could wreak damage far greater than the city’s monster flood of 2005. To the prospect of massive flooding and failure of essential services, Ghosh added the spectacle of corrugated iron roofs from the city’s teeming informal settlements turning into deadly projectiles slamming into its upscale glass towers, and major radioactive leakage in the city’s decades-old nuclear complex. The scenario is only too realistic, and may presage frequent complex emergency moments in South Asia, in which multiple risks (ranging from climate change to health, geopolitics, and governance) converge in a positive feedback loop, creating extensive dislocation and damage to large human populations.
The Arabian Sea, on the coast of which Mumbai is located, has historically seen far less cyclonic activity than the more turbulent Bay of Bengal to its east. Bangladesh and the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, for example, are no strangers to major storms and attendant evacuation of tens of millions of people – with a potential new cyclone brewing even at the time of writing. But the Arabian Sea’s major urban agglomerations in South Asia – Mumbai and Karachi – but also Goa, Kochi, Mangalore and others, have generally had an easy ride, with Mumbai not seeing a serious cyclone in its vicinity in four decades.(more…)
By John Conger
In 2017, the U.S. Congress directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a list of the installations in each military service that were most vulnerable to climate change. They gave DoD a year to do this work, as it wasn’t simple. The DoD would need to look across its enterprise, and determine how it would measure vulnerability and assess which risks were specifically from climate change. At the Center for Climate and Security, we published a briefer on the factors they might consider.
In early 2019, the DoD report was submitted to Congress, but it omitted the requested prioritization and had other puzzling gaps as well. It omitted the Marine Corps. It left out all non-US bases. It didn’t respond to Congressional questions about mitigation and cost. Instead, it included a list of 79 bases that the Department determined were its most critical, and then did a rudimentary assessment of the threat from climate change without prioritization. Congress directed them to go back and redo the work. (more…)
By John Conger
Extreme weather is an important face of climate change that is showing itself more and more frequently. Warming leads to storms with increased energy and increased precipitation, and that can lead to a lot of damage. That’s already the case. For the future, we can foresee that weather patterns will continue to change rapidly, storms will become more devastating, and that we should expect (and plan for) the unexpected.
This understanding and preparation is essential for the critical infrastructure of the United States, and the people who man and depend on that infrastructure. The last year has been particularly devastating to both civilian and military infrastructure, and there’s no way around that fact.
The Department of Defense (DoD), for example, is facing more than $8 billion in recovery costs to address extreme weather damage at Tyndall Air Force Base, Offutt Air Force Base, and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, installations that are very important for U.S. military capabilities and livelihoods. (more…)
By John Conger, Director, The Center for Climate and Security
As the Florida communities devastated by Hurricane Michael begin their long recovery, much attention has been focused on Tyndall Air Force Base and the incredible amount of damage the base took from the storm.
First and foremost, it’s important to highlight the wise decision to evacuate the base as the storm approached. No lives were lost on Tyndall and many of its F-22 aircraft were relocated elsewhere – out of harms way. Missions have been moved and critical functions have continued to operate. A decision to ride out the storm could have gone much, much worse.
Second, while the damage assessment is still ongoing, it is very clear that the bill will be quite high – not only to the infrastructure of the base, but also to the very expensive F-22 aircraft that remained at the installation. Official numbers have not been released, but it is clear that many F-22s remained at the base because they were in various states of maintenance and unable to fly. Fortunately, initial indications from the Air Force are that damage to the aircraft is less than it could have been. (more…)