Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tenth Anniversary of Boxing Day Tsunami

Friday is the tenth anniversary of the horrible Boxing Day Tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands in the Indian Ocean region in 2004. From Secretary of State, John Kerry:

I’ll never forget hearing the news of the tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean 10 years ago. The images were gut-wrenching: entire towns razed from Indonesia to Somalia; raging waters sweeping away people’s homes; hundreds of thousands killed and many more separated from their families.

Today of all days, we pause to remember those we lost—from farmers and fishers to travelers from our own lands. I know that there are no words to express such a horrific loss. There’s no way to wipe away the pain of parents who lost a child, or children who lost their parents and were forced to assume adult responsibilities at a tender age.

We recognize the millions of people who contributed to the recovery effort. And we honor those who have continued to work in the years since to help the victims pick up the pieces and rebuild their communities. The tsunami was one of the worst we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.

It also sounded a warning. We know that many regions are already suffering historic floods and rising sea levels. And scientists have been saying for years that climate change could mean more frequent and disastrous storms, unless we stop and reverse course. Last year I visited the Philippines and saw the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. It is incomprehensible that that kind of storm – or worse – could become the norm. The time to act on climate change is now – before it’s too late to heed the warning.

The first three paragraphs are well-done, obviously heartfelt and appreciated.

That said, there is no connection between global warming and tsunamis. It is true that sea levels are rising, but the rate of rise has been constant since the 1880's (most recent figures here).

The latest peer-reviewed literature says droughts and floods are not increasing. With regard to hurricanes, like Haiyan, they are not increasing! Above is a graph (arrow points to the Northern Hemisphere data for November, 2013, when Haiyan occurred) that shows hurricane activity peaked in 2005-2006 and has dropped since.

I wish the Secretary had not incorrectly conflated tsunamis with global warming because there is genuine good news on the topic of tsunamis. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has developed a greatly improved warning system for the United States and has worked with governments overseas to insure that even the people of less-well-off nations can be warned using this new technology. If you go to the link (blue, above), it will tell you about NOAA's excellent work in making us all safer.

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