“Sandy, the largest tropical storm system on record, made landfall along the coast of southern New Jersey, battering New York with hurricane-force wind gusts.”
Bloomberg News, Oct. 30, 1012
Do the effects of “Super-storm Sandy have your attention? Along with lesser East Coast metropolises, home to millions, the world’s greatest and grandest “city that never sleeps,” has ground to a halt. Its subways are stalled. Its tunnels, bridges and roads are impassable. Its schools are closed. Government agencies and hospitals are shuttered. Even the exchanges on Wall Street are silent. Usually throbbing with ambitious industry, huge swaths of New York City are without electrical power and for the moment at least, the city has become an uninhabitable concrete wasteland.
So is Sandy a once-in-a-lifetime event, an outlier — a “black swan?” as many in the media have been describing it? Or is Sandy a product of global warming — a harbinger of a future that is near at hand, in which the grandest edifices to our industry will be transformed into uninhabitable wastelands?
This is a simple question to answer. When you see a trend chart like this…
…in which there is evidence of control for 800 years and then a sudden and dramatic shift beginning circa 1850, you cannot claim that Sandy is an outlier because the weather system we have experienced over time no longer signals evidence of control. There is no way to determine the limits beyond which any given weather event can be reasonably regarded as an outlier. In other words, when the system spins out of control unpredictability becomes the governing principle and all bets are off.
If you believe the data that clearly indicate that our Earth is suddenly warming, then Sandy, along with every weather event we observe, is directly related to the past 150 years of non-systematic change.
Now dig out an encyclopedia or history book and compare it with the chart above. Can you figure out what was happening starting around 1850 to cause the rapid temperature rise we are seeing now? (Hint: It was NOT a globe spanning volcanic eruption.)