Cascadia’s Major Storms of December, 2007

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: a reminder of the stakes
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2007 01:31:45 GMT
From: Fred Heutte <phred@SUNLIGHTDATA.COM>
Reply-To: Fred Heutte <phred@SUNLIGHTDATA.COM>

(posted to Climate Action Network)

I’m not as good at oratory as Stefan Singer, so perhaps some pictures will drive home the point.

Last week a major storm hit my home state, Oregon, in the US. Oregon has about 3.3 million citizens, just the same as Bali, although the two are at opposite ends of the Pacific Ocean.

We are currently in a moderately strong La Nina phase of the ENSO (El Nino/Southern Oscillation) cycle, and weather seems to have reversed polarity somewhat.  In Bali it has been hot and dry during the normal rainy season.  In Oregon, which has its share of winter storms usually, it has rained too much.

In fact, this is the second year in a row we have been hit dead-on by a major storm with a characteristic eyewall-and-spiral-bands appearance.  Last year, the storm was called a “thingamabobbercane” at Weather Underground: entrynum=574&tstamp=200611

I don’t know what this year’s will be designated, but some are already calling it a northeast Pacific subtropical cyclone.  Except there are no such things as “northeast Pacific cylones,” it’s considered too far north and too cold for such events.

Is this due to global warming?  Well, as my friend Chris Mooney, who grew up in New Orleans, says in his excellent book Storm World, a single weather event is not climate . . . but it makes you wonder.

In due course, our local newspaper The Oregonian provided a time-lapsed satellite view that shows this year’s storm:

The eyewall veered northward toward the Queen Charlotte Islands in Canada, exposing our coast to the stronger winds southward. The results on the ground can be seen in the remarkable series of photos here:

About one-third down you’ll see a picture of a guy riding a bike in water up to the handlebars.  That’s about two miles from my house, though to be truthful it’s in a low-lying area.

The storm caused immense damage and closed Interstate 5, the main north-south route, between Portland and Seattle for four days.

Now, we are wealthy in the US and in the Northwest we are used to big storms and will clean up and move forward with our own resources. And this doesn’t even compare with the incessant series of Asian cyclones over the last several years, the most recent of which a couple weeks ago cost the life of thousands in Bangladesh.  But I must say, this is a major struggle even for my home state, and throws into sharp relief the mitigation and adaptation challenges ahead.

All of this has provided personal context for our effort in Bali. As we enter the high-level segment for COP13/CMP3, let’s keep our nerve and aim for the best result and the most progress we can over the next three days.  The conference process is busy and exhausting, but we have momentum and I’m optimistic.


Fred-chair, Global Warming & Energy Committee, Sierra Club (US)

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