Friday, September 2, 2005

Dial "M" for Maria

The Washington DC metro area has a 33rd official 90-degree day after an overnight low which dropped only to 67. A bright September sun through mostly clear skies and a brisk westerly breeze bringing downslope warming ahead of an approaching cold front have produced this above-average warmth. Reflecting the relatively low humidity, the radar is clear for hundreds of miles in each direction.


Tonight, the passage of the cold front should allow temperatures to drop a few degrees below last night: mid 60s in town, and low 60s in the 'burbs. Tomorrow will be warm and dry, highs in the mid 80s. Scroll down for Jason's full weekend forecast and tune in each morning for event updates. Have a great holiday!

Tropical Topics

This year's hectic hurricane season continues apace. (I've always wanted to use that word.) Former Storm Lee continues to be depressed in the central Atlantic, and advisories were discontinued at 11pm last night unless regeneration occurs.

Tropical Storm Maria developed from T.D. 14 this morning. Fortunately for the recovery efforts from the Katrina Catastrophe, this storm is no threat to land. It is projected to move northwestward east of Bermuda next week.

In the 55 years since storms began having names, there have been only 9 years with an "M" storm, and the only other one as early as September was Marilyn, on 9/12/1995. Even in the record-breaking year of 1933, what would have been the "M" storm occurred on September 8.

More Thoughts on Katrina

As some readers are fond of reminding us, this is a DC weather blog, and strictly speaking, Katrina was not a DC weather event. DC is where environmental policies are formulated and funded, however, and the extent of the tragedy is relevant whether we have direct personal connections to the Gulf Coast or not. A front page article"Planning, Response Are Faulted" and an editorial"From Bad to Worse" in today's WaPo address questions which had already been raised in Capitalweather posts and comments as early as before storm landfall. New Orleans mayor Nagin has been widely quoted strongly expressing his opinion.

It's extremely important to have this discussion now, even as people are still being rescued and bodies are being recovered. That's because long, sad history proves that it's impossible to engage the public on a problem until a crisis actually occurs. The problem with the environmental crisis that we face is that it is mostly gradual in its effects. There have already been "canaries" dying in the coal mine, but this is one 800-pound gorilla. Someone said on NPR, I can't recall who, that the real test of a society is not how it reacts to a crisis at the time, but how it deals with the lessons afterward. We have to decide as a country and as members of a larger world community whether we have the will to set the necessary priorities to have a sustainable civilization, or whether the purpose of life is simply to consume resources at the maximum possible rate. Should we cut $70 million from hurricane protection for New Orleans, but spend $223 million for a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 residents? That kind of action, although carried out in the genteel halls of Congress, is simply looting without a shopping bag.

There are many questions which need to be addressed in this particular situation, not the least of which is, should we make a huge investment, only to restore New Orleans to its previous level of risk? Asking these questions is not partisanship, it is humanitarianism. Partisanship is putting ideology above science, expertise, and professionalism. Partisanship is substituting photo ops for action. For the record, in case anyone is not aware, although the national administration is obviously Republican, both the state and local administrations in New Orleans are Democratic. There is clearly plenty of responsibility to go around. Our responsibility, as scientists and educated members of the concerned public, is to keep asking the questions. For too long, the discussions have been carried out in the polite forums of academic debate, where they can be conveniently ignored by those who have a vested interest in business as usual. The results are in: The policy of business as usual is bankrupt, and it must be replaced.

Your constructive comments are welcome.

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