Was Megastorm Sandy a freak combination of weather systems? Or are hurricanes increasing in intensity due to a warming climate? How did this perfect storm make search and rescue so dangerous? "Inside the Megastorm" takes viewers moment by moment through Sandy, its impacts, and the future of storm protection. Through first person accounts from those who survived, and from experts and scientists, "Inside the Megastorm" gives scientific context to a new breed of storms.
Hurricane Sandy at peak intensity on October 25, 2012
Inside The Megastorm (Part 1)
Hurricane Sandy (unofficially referred to as "Superstorm Sandy") was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, and the second-costliest hurricane in United States history. Classified as the eighteenth named storm, tenth hurricane and second major hurricane of the year, Sandy was a Category 3 storm at its peak intensity when it made landfall in Cuba. While it was a Category 2 storm off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km)). Estimates as of 2015 assessed damage to have been about $75 billion (2012 USD), a total surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina. At least 233 people were killed along the path of the storm in eight countries.
Sandy developed from a tropical wave in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, quickly strengthened, and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy six hours later. Sandy moved slowly northward toward the Greater Antilles and gradually intensified. On October 24, Sandy became a hurricane, made landfall near Kingston, Jamaica, re-emerged a few hours later into the Caribbean Sea and strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane. On October 25, Sandy hit Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane, then weakened to a Category 1 hurricane. Early on October 26, Sandy moved through the Bahamas. On October 27, Sandy briefly weakened to a tropical storm and then restrengthened to a Category 1 hurricane. Early on October 29, Sandy curved west-northwest (the "left turn" or "left hook") and then moved ashore near Brigantine, New Jersey, just to the northeast of Atlantic City, as a post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds.
In Jamaica, winds left 70% of residents without electricity, blew roofs off buildings, killed one, and caused about $100 million (2012 USD) in damage. Sandy's outer bands brought flooding to Haiti, killing at least 54, causing food shortages, and leaving about 200,000 homeless; the hurricane also caused two deaths in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, one man was swept away by a swollen river. In Cuba, there was extensive coastal flooding and wind damage inland, destroying some 15,000 homes, killing 11, and causing $2 billion (2012 USD) in damage. Sandy caused two deaths and damage estimated at $700 million (2012 USD) in The Bahamas. In Canada, two were killed in Ontario and an estimated $100 million (2012 CAD) in damage was caused throughout Ontario and Quebec.
In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Its storm surge hit New York City on October 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city. Damage in the United States amounted to $71.4 billion (2013 USD). In Canada, two were killed in Ontario and an estimated $100 million (2012 CAD) in damage was caused throughout Ontario and Quebec.
Inside The Megastorm (Part 2)
Homes destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Jeremie, Haiti, October 6, 2016.
Hurricane Matthew is currently a strong tropical cyclone that impacted Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and The Bahamas, and is moving along the east coast of the southeastern United States, especially Florida, as well as Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. It was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. The fourteenth tropical cyclone, thirteenth storm, fifth hurricane and second major hurricane of the annual hurricane season, Matthew formed from a vigorous tropical wave that moved off the African coast on September 22, progressing on a westward track until it developed into a tropical storm while it was situated just to the east of the Leeward Islands on September 28. A day later, it became a hurricane while west of the Leeward Islands, and rapidly strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane.
At least 887 deaths have been attributed to the storm, including 877 in Haiti, making it the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Stan in 2005, which killed more than 1,600 in Central America and Mexico.
On October 6, U.S. President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency for Florida. The federal disaster declaration was later extended to include Georgia and South Carolina.
(CNN)As Hurricane Matthew continues to churn through the Atlantic, leaving more than 260 dead in the Caribbean and threatening the Florida coast, the focus must be on public safety. People in the storm's path must seek refuge, as Florida's governor has implored. And those in the Caribbean likely will need assistance as they mourn their dead and clean up the wreckage.
But as the impact of the storm becomes clear, there's an uncomfortable truth the rest of us should wrestle with: Hurricane Matthew looks a lot like future climate change. And if we want to stop storms like this from getting even more intense, we need to do everything we can to rid the economy of fossil fuels.
"We expect to see more high-intensity events, Category 4 and 5 events, that are around 13% of total hurricanes but do a disproportionate amount of damage," Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT, told The Guardian. "The theory is robust and there are hints that we are already beginning to see it in nature."
"Last year was the warmest our oceans have ever been on record. And that's critical context," Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, told Democracy Now. "It's that warmth that provides the energy that intensifies these storms. And it isn't a coincidence that we've seen the strongest hurricane in both hemispheres within the last year."
Emanuel, the MIT professor, told me it's not possible to say Hurricane Matthew was caused by climate change. We just don't know that. But we do know that by burning coal, natural gas and oil we are heating up the atmosphere and oceans, and that's expected to strengthen hurricanes like this over time.
By 2100, tropical hurricanes are expected to be 2% to 11% more intense because of global warming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, citing UN data.
Global warming also is expected to make hurricanes produce about 20% more rain near the eye of the storm, according to a US government report. That's critical because freshwater flooding is the second deadliest feature of hurricanes, Emanuel told me.
The top killer is storm surge, he said, and that also will be shaped by our fossil fuel addiction.
As the planet heats up, the ocean is expanding and ice sheets are melting from the land into the sea. That's causing already noticeable increases in tide lines, leading to sunny-day flooding in Miami and Norfolk, Virginia, for example, as tides spill into streets and yards. Rising tides make hurricane storm surges even higher, causing greater risks for people living on the coast.
"Within the next 15 years, higher sea levels combined with storm surge will likely increase the average annual cost of coastal storms along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico by $2 billion to $3.5 billion," a 2014 report from the Risky Business Project, chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer, found. "Adding in potential changes in hurricane activity, the likely increase in average annual losses grows to up to $7.3 billion, bringing the total annual price tag for hurricanes and other coastal storms to $35 billion."
The decisions we make about our energy use today will define how deadly and costly hurricanes like Matthew will be for many generations to come. We ignore these warnings at our peril.
Megastorm Aftermath (Part 1)
In October 2012, Megastorm Sandy cut a path of devastation across the Caribbean and the East Coast, killing hundreds and doing tens of billions of dollars in damage. To many, it was a wake-up call. Now, one year after Sandy's deadly strike, NOVA follows up on the 2012 film "Inside the Megastorm" with a fresh investigation of the critical questions raised by this historic storm: Was Megastorm Sandy a freak combination of weather systems? Or are hurricanes increasing in intensity due to a changing climate? What can we do to prepare ourselves for the next Sandy, and what progress has been made toward making our urban infrastructure more resilient? Much of Sandy's wrecking power was due to an extreme storm surge that left large swaths of New York and New Jersey underwater. And with sea levels on the rise, flooding will only become more frequent. NOVA examines the role of climate change in driving these rising seas, and looks at some of the latest extraordinary engineering employed in other areas, as well as what it may take to make cities like New York more resilient in the future.
Megastorm Aftermath (Part 2)
Megastorm Sandy Aftermath
Several media organizations contributed to the immediate relief effort: Disney–ABC Television Group held a "Day of Giving" on Monday, November 5, raising $17 million on their television stations for the American Red Cross and NBC raised $23 million during their Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together telethon the same day. On 31 October 2012, News Corporation donated $1 million to relief efforts in the New York metropolitan area. As of December 2013 the NGO Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund had distributed much of the funding raised in New Jersey.
On November 6, the United Nations and World Food Programme promised humanitarian aid to at least 500,000 people in Santiago de Cuba.
On December 12, 2012, the 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Various television channels in the United States and internationally aired the four-hour concert which was expected to reach over 1 billion people worldwide, featuring Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Roger Waters, Eddie Vedder, Kanye West, and The Who. Web sites including Fuse.tv, MTV.com, YouTube, and the sites of AOL and Yahoo! planned to stream the performance.
On December 28, 2012, the United States Senate approved an emergency Hurricane Sandy relief bill to provide $60 billion for US states affected by Sandy, but the House in effect postponed action until the next session which began January 3 by adjourning without voting on the bill. On January 4, 2013 House leaders pledged to vote on a flood insurance bill and an aid package by January 15. On January 28, the Senate passed the $50.5 billion Sandy aid bill by a count of 62–36. which President Obama signed into law January 29.
In January 2013, The New York Times reported that those affected by the hurricane were still struggling to recover.
In June 2013, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo set out to centralize recovery and rebuilding efforts in impacted areas of New York State by establishing the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR). He aimed to address communities' most urgent needs, and to identify innovative and enduring solutions to strengthen the State's infrastructure and critical systems. Operating under the umbrella of New York Rising, GOSR utilized approximately $3.8 billion in flexible funding made available by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development's (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program to concentrate aid in four main areas: housing, small business, infrastructure, and the community reconstruction.
On December 6, 2013, an analysis of Federal Emergency Management Agency data showed that fewer than half of those affected who requested disaster recovery assistance had received any, and a total of 30,000 residents of New York and New Jersey remained displaced.
In March 2014, Newsday reported, that 17 months after the hurricane people displaced from rental units on Long Island faced unique difficulties due to lack of affordable rental housing and delays in housing program implementations by New York State. Close to 9,000 rental units on Long Island were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 per the NY State Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR). New York State officials said that additional assistance would soon be available from the HUD´s Community Development Block Grant funds via the New York Rising program. On March 15, 2014, a group of those who remained displaced by the hurricane organized a protest at the Nassau Legislative building in Mineola, New York, to raise awareness of their frustration with the timeline for receiving financial assistance from the New York Rising program.
As of March 2014, the GOSR released a press statemnet, that the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program had distributed more than $280 million in payments to 6,388 homeowners for damage from Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee. Every eligible homeowner who had applied by January 20, 2014 had been issued a check for home reconstruction, including over 4,650 Nassau residents for over $201 million and over 1,350 Suffolk residents for over $65 million. The State also had made offers over $293 million to buyout homes of 709 homeowners.
10 Things You Didn't Know About Tsunamis (Part 1)
Iain Stewart journeys across the oceans to explore the most powerful giant waves in history, with ten remarkable stories about tsunamis.
These massive waves can be taller than the biggest skyscraper, travel at the speed of a jet plane and when they reach land, rear up and turn into a terrifying wall of water that destroys everything in its path. These unstoppable, uncontrollable forces of nature caused the ruin of an entire ancient civilization, may have played a small part in the demise of the dinosaurs, and in World War II were used as a weapon. Yet astonishingly, two men who surfed the tallest wave in history - half a kilometre high - survived.
10 Things You Didn't Know About Tsunamis (Part 2)
A tsunami (from Japanese: 津波, "harbour wave";) or tidal wave, also known as a seismic sea wave, is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions (including detonations of underwater nuclear devices), landslides, glacier calvings, meteorite impacts and other disturbances above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves which are generated by wind, or tides which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.
Tsunami waves do not resemble normal undersea currents or sea waves, because their wavelength is far longer. Rather than appearing as a breaking wave, a tsunami may instead initially resemble a rapidly rising tide, and for this reason they are often referred to as tidal waves, although this usage is not favoured by the scientific community because tsunamis are not tidal in nature. Tsunamis generally consist of a series of waves with periods ranging from minutes to hours, arriving in a so-called "internal wave train". Wave heights of tens of metres can be generated by large events. Although the impact of tsunamis is limited to coastal areas, their destructive power can be enormous and they can affect entire ocean basins; the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was among the deadliest natural disasters in human history with at least 230,000 people killed or missing in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean.
Greek historian Thucydides suggested in his late-5th century BC History of the Peloponnesian War, that tsunamis were related to submarine earthquakes, but the understanding of a tsunami's nature remained slim until the 20th century and much remains unknown. Major areas of current research include trying to determine why some large earthquakes do not generate tsunamis while other smaller ones do; trying to accurately forecast the passage of tsunamis across the oceans; and also to forecast how tsunami waves interact with specific shorelines.
10 Things You Didn't Know About Tsunamis (Part 3)
Man-made or triggered tsunamis
There have been studies of the potential of the induction of and at least one actual attempt to create tsunami waves as a tectonic weapon.
In World War II, the New Zealand Military Forces initiated Project Seal, which attempted to create small tsunamis with explosives in the area of today's Shakespear Regional Park; the attempt failed.
There has been considerable speculation on the possibility of using nuclear weapons to cause tsunamis near to an enemy coastline. Even during World War II consideration of the idea using conventional explosives was explored. Nuclear testing in the Pacific Proving Ground by the United States seemed to generate poor results. Operation Crossroads fired two 20 kilotonnes of TNT (84 TJ) bombs, one in the air and one underwater, above and below the shallow (50 m (160 ft)) waters of the Bikini Atoll lagoon. Fired about 6 km (3.7 mi) from the nearest island, the waves there were no higher than 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) upon reaching the shoreline. Other underwater tests, mainly Hardtack I/Wahoo (deep water) and Hardtack I/Umbrella (shallow water) confirmed the results. Analysis of the effects of shallow and deep underwater explosions indicate that the energy of the explosions doesn't easily generate the kind of deep, all-ocean waveforms which are tsunamis; most of the energy creates steam, causes vertical fountains above the water, and creates compressional waveforms. Tsunamis are hallmarked by permanent large vertical displacements of very large volumes of water which do not occur in explosions.
The tsunami bomb was an attempt during World War II to develop a tectonic weapon that could create destructive tsunamis. The project commenced after US Navy officer E.A. Gibson noticed small waves generated by explosions used to clear coral reefs. The idea was developed by the United States and New Zealand military in a programme code named Project Seal. The weapons concept was deemed feasible, but the weapons themselves were never fully developed or used. A related concept, the bouncing bomb was developed and used in World War II, to be dropped into water as a means to destroy German dams and cause loss of industrial capacity and widespread flooding.
Tests were conducted by Professor Thomas Leech, of the University of Auckland, in Whangaparaoa off the coast of Auckland and off New Caledonia between 1944 and 1945. British and US defence chiefs were eager to see it developed, and it was considered potentially as important as the atomic bomb. It was expected to cause massive damage to coastal cities or coastal defences.
The weapon was only tested using small explosion and never on a full scale. 3,700 test explosions were conducted over a seven-month period. The tests revealed that a single explosion would not produce a tsunami, but concluded that a line of 2,000,000 kg (4,400,000 lb) of explosives about 8 km (5.0 mi) off the coast could create a destructive wave.
Details of the experiments codenamed "Project Seal" were released to the public by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1999 and are available at Archives New Zealand in Wellington and at the Scripps Institution Of Oceanography Archives in San Diego, California.
A 1968 research report sponsored by the US Office of Naval Research addressed this hypothesis of coastal damage due to large explosion-generated waves, and found theoretical and experimental evidence showing it to be relatively inefficient in wave-making potential, with most wave energy dissipated by breaking on the continental shelf before reaching the shore.
Analysis of the declassified documents in 1999 by the University of Waikato suggested the weapon would be viable.
No specific targets for the weapon were identified, but in 2013 New Zealand broadcaster and author Ray Waru suggested coastal fortifications in Japan ahead of an invasion of the Japanese home islands.
Tsunamis cause damage by two mechanisms: the smashing force of a wall of water travelling at high speed, and the destructive power of a large volume of water draining off the land and carrying a large amount of debris with it, even with waves that do not appear to be large.
While everyday wind waves have a wavelength (from crest to crest) of about 100 metres (330 ft) and a height of roughly 2 metres (6.6 ft), a tsunami in the deep ocean has a much larger wavelength of up to 200 kilometres (120 mi). Such a wave travels at well over 800 kilometres per hour (500 mph), but owing to the enormous wavelength the wave oscillation at any given point takes 20 or 30 minutes to complete a cycle and has an amplitude of only about 1 metre (3.3 ft). This makes tsunamis difficult to detect over deep water, where ships are unable to feel their passage.
The velocity of a tsunami can be calculated by obtaining the square root of the depth of the water in metres multiplied by the acceleration due to gravity (approximated to 10 m/s2). For example, if the Pacific Ocean is considered to have a depth of 5000 metres, the velocity of a tsunami would be the square root of √(5000 × 10) = √50000 = ~224 metres per second (735 feet per second), which equates to a speed of ~806 kilometres per hour or about 500 miles per hour. This formula is the same as used for calculating the velocity of shallow waves, because a tsunami behaves like a shallow wave as it peak to peak value reaches from the floor of the ocean to the surface.
The reason for the Japanese name "harbour wave" is that sometimes a village's fishermen would sail out, and encounter no unusual waves while out at sea fishing, and come back to land to find their village devastated by a huge wave.
As the tsunami approaches the coast and the waters become shallow, wave shoaling compresses the wave and its speed decreases below 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). Its wavelength diminishes to less than 20 kilometres (12 mi) and its amplitude grows enormously – in accord with Green's law. Since the wave still has the same very long period, the tsunami may take minutes to reach full height. Except for the very largest tsunamis, the approaching wave does not break, but rather appears like a fast-moving tidal bore. Open bays and coastlines adjacent to very deep water may shape the tsunami further into a step-like wave with a steep-breaking front.
When the tsunami's wave peak reaches the shore, the resulting temporary rise in sea level is termed run up. Run up is measured in metres above a reference sea level. A large tsunami may feature multiple waves arriving over a period of hours, with significant time between the wave crests. The first wave to reach the shore may not have the highest run up.
About 80% of tsunamis occur in the Pacific Ocean, but they are possible wherever there are large bodies of water, including lakes. They are caused by earthquakes, landslides, volcanic explosions, glacier calvings, and bolides.
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The undersea megathrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000–280,000 people in 14 countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 metres (100 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
It is the third-largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph and had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Its epicentre was between Simeulue and mainland Indonesia. The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response. In all, the worldwide community donated more than US$14 billion (2004) in humanitarian aid. The event is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake. The resulting tsunami was given various names, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, South Asian tsunami, Indonesian tsunami, the Christmas tsunami and the Boxing Day tsunami.
Death toll and casualties
According to the U.S. Geological Survey a total of 227,898 people died (see table below for details). Measured in lives lost, this is one of the ten worst earthquakes in recorded history, as well as the single worst tsunami in history. Indonesia was the worst affected area, with most death toll estimates at around 170,000. However, another report by Siti Fadilah Supari, the Indonesian Minister of Health at the time, estimated the death total to be as high as 220,000 in Indonesia alone, giving a total of 280,000 fatalities.
The tsunami caused serious damage and deaths as far as the east coast of Africa, with the farthest recorded death due to the tsunami occurring at Rooi Els in South Africa, 8,000 km (5,000 mi) away from the epicentre. In total, eight people in South Africa died due to abnormally high sea levels and waves.
Relief agencies reported that one-third of the dead appeared to be children. This was a result of the high proportion of children in the populations of many of the affected regions and because children were the least able to resist being overcome by the surging waters. Oxfam went on to report that as many as four times more women than men were killed in some regions because they were waiting on the beach for the fishermen to return and looking after their children in the houses.
In addition to the large number of local residents, up to 9,000 foreign tourists (mostly Europeans) enjoying the peak holiday travel season were among the dead or missing, especially people from the Nordic countries. The European nation hardest hit may have been Sweden, whose death toll was 543.
States of emergency were declared in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Maldives. The United Nations estimated at the outset that the relief operation would be the costliest in human history. Then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that reconstruction would probably take between five and ten years. Governments and non-governmental organisations feared that the final death toll might double as a result of diseases, prompting a massive humanitarian response. In the end, this fear did not materialise.
For purposes of establishing timelines of local events, the time zones of affected areas are: UTC+3: (Kenya, Madagascar, Somalia, Tanzania); UTC+4: (Mauritius, Réunion, Seychelles); UTC+5: (Maldives); UTC+5:30: (India, Sri Lanka); UTC+6: (Bangladesh); UTC+6:30: (Cocos Islands, Myanmar); UTC+7: (Indonesia (western), Thailand); UTC+8: (Malaysia, Singapore). Since the earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC, add the above offsets to find the local time of the earthquake.
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami Death toll and casualties