Stillwater News Press

CNHI Special Projects

April 17, 2013

Are the world's great cities ready for rising waters and freak storms?

LONDON — We are a coast-hugging species. About 44 percent of the world's population live beside the seaside, and that number is set to rise. Why? Maritime commerce and easy access to all that lovely seafood spring to mind. But maybe there's a more fundamental reason, a human instinct touched upon by the sailor Ishmael, explaining his aquatic affection on the very first page of Moby Dick: "If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."

Unfortunately, the sea doesn't always return that tender affection. Like the number of coast-huggers, it too is set to rise. Between 1950 and 2009, global coastlines rose between 0.6 and 1 millimeter annually. Taken together, those two trends spell global disaster, albeit of the very, very gradual kind. So what if the sea swallows up a low-lying atoll here and there? Who cares if entire (albeit tiny) Pacific nations may be engulfed in a few decades? If it happens slowly enough for the victims to row away to safety, it surely happens too slowly for anyone else to notice. So, if you're a low-lying island nation, you probably need a clever media stunt for the world to pay any attention.

But add a noticeable rise in extreme weather to those creeping sea levels, throw in a high tide surge, and you've got Superstorm Sandy. Suddenly, New York looks eerily like it does in all those apocalyptic movies that were enjoyable because they seemed distant enough. Director Roland Emmerich's cinematic schadenfreude feels like a guilty pleasure now. It won't forever.

New York will survive, get on with business, and Sandy will recede in memory. But from now on, New Yorkers won't be able to say Mother Nature didn't give them notice. Folks in New Orleans got a similar, albeit more distressing, wake-up call in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina. In both cases, the storms are forebodings of the cities' future demise. Nothing is eternal. Like people and countries, cities too eventually kick the bucket. The likeliest scenario for New Orleans and New York is that they will die a watery death, swallowed up eventually by the otherwise life-giving sea. The waters will rise, steadily but imperceptibly, while Poseidon will occasionally reach into his war-chest for tempests to whack their defenses with — until they break.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
CNHI Special Projects
  • Norman-Tornado16.jpg Audio: How can we better prepare for tornadoes?

    An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.

    May 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • Norman-Tornado08.jpg Photos: Aftermath of massive tornado in Moore Storm victims were pulled from the rubble and residents began surveying the damage late Monday and early Tuesday in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, where a powerful tornado destroyed entire neighborhoods and left dozens dead.

    May 21, 2013

  • MainStory5.IndyQuakeDrill.jpg The Big One: Preparing for mid-America earthquake

    It’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee. A quarter of a million people are homeless.

    May 19, 2013 3 Photos 3 Stories

  • screenshot salmon.jpg VIDEO: How sequestration could affect US flood warning system

    Oregon and Idaho each had to shut down three water gauges due to automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration. Watch how Idaho relies on these water gauges, from tracking drought conditions to determining stream levels for salmon.

    May 15, 2013 1 Photo

  • MainStory4.ForneyTornadoDamage.JPG Warning Signs: Technology speeds disaster alerts, response

    Technology has changed the way Americans get ready for disasters and respond to them – with more precise forecasts, personalized weather warnings and more efficient recovery efforts. And it will continue to help us be more prepared.

    May 12, 2013 3 Photos

  • Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 3.40.47 PM.png VIDEO: High-tech storm prediction center warns residents of tornadoes

    At the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., the team of meteorologists charged with predicting when and where tornadoes may strike rely on ever-changing technology to get the job done.

    May 12, 2013 1 Photo

  • Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 5.11.06 PM.png VIDEO: Misconceptions about predicting tornadoes

    National Weather Center personnel Lans Rothfusz and David Andra speak about the misconceptions the public may have when it comes to the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman.

    May 11, 2013 1 Photo 1 Story

  • Screen shot 2013-05-09 at 3.33.54 PM.png VIDEO: Take an inside look at storm prediction center

    National Weather Center personnel Lans Rothfusz and David Andra give viewers an idea of the day-to-day happenings at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

    May 9, 2013 1 Photo

  • 800px-Haiti_earthquake_damage.jpg When the earth moves under our feet

    One of the most breath-taking geologic events is a major earthquake. In just a few moments, shaking of the Earth can result in billions of dollars of damage and thousands of lives lost.

    May 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • 20110524_Chickasha Tornado2.jpg When in a tornado, here's what not to do

    Highway overpasses are widely thought to be a last-minute refuge from a tornado, thanks in part to this 1991 video. But, meteorologists say, taking shelter beneath a bridge is probably the last place you want to be when a tornado strikes.

    May 7, 2013 1 Photo

Buy & Share Photos
NewsPress e-Edition
NewsPress Specials
AP Video
Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
Stocks
NDN Video
Facebook Is Officially A Mobile Company 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Swiftair Loses Contact With Air Algerie Aircraft Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid
Must Read