Sandys Impact

Sandy’s superstorm is yet another reminder that weather is not always predictable and that climate change is not fully understood.  Mainstream academics appear to be struggling to understand what is happening with our weather.  As I mentioned in August, data issued by the UK Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit earlier this year clearly shows that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.  In other words, for the past 15 years, the global temperature has actually been cooling, NOT warming, and climatological models are having difficulty reconciling actual weather patterns with predictions.

Dr. Nicola Scafetta, of Duke University in North Carolina, argued that “If temperatures continue to stay flat or start to cool again, the divergence between the models and recorded data will eventually become so great that the whole scientific community will question the current theories.”  Furthermore, he is among those that question the emphasis on CO2 emissions as opposed to solar activity.  He concludes that “The real issue is whether the model itself is accurate.”  One of America’s most eminent climate experts, Professor Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, suggested that “The responsible thing to do would be to accept the fact that the models may have severe shortcomings when it comes to the influence of the sun.”

Regardless of what is happening with weather patterns, it is clear that human activity is exacerbating climate change.  On an elementary level, I remember growing up in Petit Valley and noticing a correlation between hillside construction/cultivation and rainy season flooding.  August’s flooding was a terrible wake-up call for Trinidad.

Last week, Sandy was a potent reminder of nature’s power.  Like many of us in the Caribbean diaspora, we have many relatives in the northeastern United States.  My in-laws and most of my wife’s family and friends are in the Queens, Manhattan, and Long Island areas.  I also have my sister, some cousins, and friends in other parts of the city, and I am so grateful that they were spared from harm.  At the same time, my prayers go out to those that lost loved ones and/or their livelihood.

While the international media has predictably focused on Sandy’s impact on the US, Haiti’s death toll of 54 was much higher, given that there are only about 10 million people in this impoverished Caribbean territory.  Furthermore, Sandy destroyed thousands of crops, making the import-dependent country even more reliant on expensive ethnic cuisine.  Kudos to Venezuela’s President Chavez responded so quickly to Haiti’s cries with several plane-loads and boat-loads of food.

At the time of writing, reports were that at least 11 people, including an infant, lost their lives in Cuba.  Besides, more than 200,000 homes were damaged, and about 15,000 homes were actually destroyed in eastern Cuba.  In Jamaica, I read that at least one person was killed, and officials say floodwaters and winds flattened farms, destroyed 71 houses, and severely damaged 348 more.  The government there has estimated damage at around US$16.5 million.

In the Dominican Republic, the storm killed at least two young men. At the same time, nearly 30,000 people were evacuated due to widespread flooding in the south of the country, including parts of the capital.  In Puerto Rico, while the U.S. territory was not in the hurricane’s direct path, heavy rains caused flooding on the island, with one death reported.

In the Bahamas, the hurricane apparently killed two people, including the CEO of a bank, which fell from his roof while he was trying to repair a window shutter as Sandy approached.  Estimates from the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, a risk pool for 16 governments in the Caribbean, are that the total cost of damage could be as high as US$300 million.
Of course, then the impact of decreased visitor traffic needs to be factored into the tourism-dependent Caribbean basin’s overall economic impact. US Tax Singapore

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Sandy would be the last big storm to hit the region.  Perhaps no region would be safe from unusual and disruptive weather.  Most of England’s Fenland area where we now live is within a few meters of sea level.  As with similar areas in Holland, much of the Fenland originally consisted of fresh or salt-water wetlands, which have been artificially drained and continue to be protected from floods by drainage banks and pumps.

We now live in an era of strange weather, but that does not mean we should ignore our choices’ impact.  We still need to take care of our Mother Earth.  Despite our current challenges, I continue to have the audacity of hope that we will all enjoy a brighter tomorrow.

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