Hurricanes and the future
Watching the devastation over the last few weeks, first, the terrible flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, then, Hurricane Irma lashing Florida, takes me back to a scene in book #2 of my Climate Fiction trilogy. In Albedo Effect, Book 2 of The Shade Ring Trilogy, a category 6 hurricane named Pascual strikes Florida's Gulf Coast in the year 2117. I wrote a category 6 storm because I wanted to include natural disasters that scientists say might very well become more common and more violent as ocean temperatures rise. Right now, the strongest hurricanes are rated Category 5.
In The Shade Ring Trilogy, sea level has risen 15 feet, so most coastal areas in the US have been abandoned. One reason: insurance companies no longer underwrite policies for coastal areas – a possible development I've read about. Another reason is that the beach ain't what it used to be in my fictional take on a near future when runaway polar melting has submerged coastal cities around the world. Beaches are considered dangerous and undesirable.
I was writing fiction, of course. What happened in Houston and Florida was oh, so real. People died. Homes were destroyed. And now insurance companies and federal, state and local governments will pay the tab to rebuild survivors' lives, homes and businesses. Unfortunately, it's likely these kinds of tragedies will repeat themselves. And the Houston area and much of Florida will continue to be in the bull's-eye.
Throughout history we have built cities on the coastline. But development along the shore has its risks. Consider Dunwich, the former capital of East Anglia, at one time a rival to London for commerce. Most of Dunwich now sits submerged beneath the waves because of rising water. Likewise, the two sunken cities at the mouth of the Nile River in Egypt. Plus, five islands in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean that are now underwater due to rising sea levels, along with quite a number of others.
Then there are the cities at risk of being submerged by the end of this century. The list includes Fort Lauderdale, Boston and Galveston, just to name a few. And while that may seem like a long way off, consider that your children and grandchildren won't think so. If they live along the coast, they could end up like residents of submerged communities of the past - having to abandon their homes for higher ground.
We've had terrible hurricanes before - Sandy, Katrina and many others. But it seems like we've come to think of these devastating storms as normal. That they're just part of the cost of living – the loss of life, the property damage, the cost of rebuilding. As I researched predictions for the future, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it’s time to re-evaluate our desire to live and work along high-risk coastal areas when the human and financial cost continues to climb.
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