Exploring the Future...until we get there

Category: Water Phenomenon

Naturally occurring events related to water.

What’s in a Name, Matthew?

How strange that we are inclined to give names to things such as hurricanes, and usually very nice ones, too, like those we’d probably choose for our baby sons and daughters. Do the storms feel jilted in some way, for not being labeled with terrifying monikers, as they should be, like Titan or Thor or Skull Crusher?

What if the hurricanes had Meet and Greet conventions and had to walk around with name tags displayed on their lapels? Quite the moment when Andrew blows the hinges off the door and everyone cowers at the very mention of his name. Should we really have Cat 5 weather events named Katrina? (although there was a Katrina and the Waves, right?)

Anyway, it just makes me feel uneasy. What if during the season’s opener some year soon, a truly horrific Cat 5 makes a direct hit on another major coastal city, with a high death toll and devastating damage, and the meteorologists have already named the thing Herb? Can you pull it back and rename? I suppose not (just like you can’t pull back Trump and stick someone else in there who doesn’t deny that Climate Change is real). Awkward…

Is this what we do to the biggest of our big league players? Try to make them kinder and gentler with familiar and nonthreatening names? I say give them the darkest, meanest names available in our arsenal of scary things. They kill and maim and destroy and devastate. What are these natural phenoms doing wearing names like Jerry and Billy? (disclaimer: I have no actual evidence that any hurricane was ever named Jerry or Billy).

(I also have to say in a very unrelated fashion that there’s just something inherently wrong with reading news stories that convey death tolls and catastrophic damage tucked in between ads for boob jobs, followed by links at the bottom about how Brad and Angelina are going to war over custody of the kids, and what some actor from a 70s sitcom looks like now. This is the equivalent of getting a flyer at a graveside service offering 2-for-1 pepperoni pizzas for the first 20 mourners through the door and the eulogy isn’t even finished. Is anybody working on this? Online is totally offline and somebody needs to get it back on track!)

Matthew did a bang up job, that’s for sure, but did he live up to his hype? Maybe, but I think his best was not good enough. He will be memorable for the locals, at least for a while, but for the rest of the world, this one will fade into the haze of hurricanes, having spread itself too thinly over too wide of an area. Had it barreled straight in at a big city, like Katrina did, then we might have the stuff of infamous legends. For all of those who were watching in an unfocused manner, however, Matthew has already become yesterday’s fish wrapper. (And please don’t misunderstand me…I’m not belittling loss of life or property. I wish every single soul in any hurricane’s path could get safely out of harm’s way and stay there. I wish every home and business remained unscathed. Unfortunately, that’s not the way hurricanes work, and especially not when we humans have moved into just about any path a hurricane tends to follow).

In the meantime, meteorologists are having a field day with this one, fascinated by the data pouring in from all the metrics that pile up with any event this size. Records were shattered, they say, high and low, left and right. The comparisons are endless, and somewhat tedious. But a hurricane should not be turned loose of so easily, even though weather addicts get antsy for new calamity much too quickly. If you make your living in weather (or journalism) though, a hurricane is no trifling thing, and deserves to be milked of its very last drop.

The media holds on tight, too, placing its reporters in the blustery wind and blowing rain, fairly screaming at their audience not to try any of this at home. It’s hard to believe that most of what they pull out there in the elements, pelted mercilessly by the worst Nature has to offer, is for any purpose other than ratings. Wait until one of them gets blasted over the pier or decapitated by a piece of flying aluminum siding, then maybe they’ll lug all the equipment back inside. Most days, however, the Weather Channel does make for pretty amazing entertainment, since people pumping their fists at the sky never grows old. Footage from twenty years back is as good as what they shot yesterday, too.

Ho hum, big yawn, and a spoonful of complacency say those addicted to the adrenaline rush of extreme events, especially when viewed with a lounge chair and beer. Today’s hurricane is already being overtaken by world events elsewhere, and that will be the direction all those heads will inevitably turn. Meantime, those records the meteorologists keep shouting about? We should care, especially since nothing seems to stay in place for long before it gets toppled by a new one these days. This is terribly worrisome.  I am as guilty as the rest in my ignorance of the drama steadily unfolding. Until I started this blog, I had no clear idea how bad things had gotten. Greenland really is melting, and fast, too. Sea levels really are rising. There’s actually a mass extinction event happening right now (look it up).

The world’s weather is probably spinning out of control right before our eyes and only a few concerned scientists care enough to connect the dots. Everything leads directly to our own doorstep, and we’re most focused on which bathroom a transgender should have to use, or whether or not The Donald wears a toupee. No wonder we give names like Matthew to hurricanes.

Check out these related stories, and sincere thanks for stopping by!


Welcome to the Anthropocene

Things Fall Down

In Florida, where I live, there is the occasional bizarre headline, and always with a terrifying picture, about the latest thing or things the ground has decided to swallow up whole.  Usually something heavy and substantial, too, like a car, or a house.  These horrifying spectacles (or maybe we should call them events) are known as sinkholes.  The phenomenon didn’t make any sense to me until I took the time to look into the science.  Then I was simply surprised (and grateful) that these gaping holes occur as seldom as they do.

(Note: I suppose the term “seldom” is relative, since a map of Florida designed to show where sinkholes exist looks remarkably similar to Swiss cheese, or a moonscape that’s full up and simply unable to accommodate even one more crater.  Although sinkholes are nothing new, the idea of new ones forming as a result of human activity certainly is…read on).

One word—limestone (that’s actually two words pushed together, isn’t it?)  Florida has bedrock made up, in large part, of this stuff, as well as dolomite, gypsum, and some other minor actors to round out the mix.  Naturally acidic rain falling on the earth percolates into this limestone, physically (chemically) altering the rock, slowly eating away at the delicate substance each time there is precipitation.  After long periods of this persistent eroding action, the landscape may ultimately find itself too weak to offer support.  The result is a cave-in, sometimes to the extent that stuff like homes and neighborhoods get gobbled up (there must be a recipe for a bad sci-fi movie in there somewhere).

From a geologist’s viewpoint, sinkholes are simply the natural result of erosive processes occurring throughout the world.  In fact, all across the planet there are numerous tourist attractions centered around one or more sinkholes.  Many are truly spectacular to behold!  You can discover these beauties for yourself simply by typing “sinkholes” in your favorite search engine, then enjoying the colorful images as your visual reward (be sure to check out Devil’s Sinkhole in Texas, or Sarisarinama Sinkholes in Venezuela).

Many of Florida’s lakes are the result of sinkholes.  One indicator that a lake may have been formed that way is its characteristic round shape.  For example, Kingsley Lake in north central Florida, when viewed from the air, is so perfectly round that pilots have dubbed it the Silver Dollar Lake.

There are times when, instead of the roof caving in, it stays intact, resulting in breath-taking limestone caverns one can step into and explore (sort of…you might be told not to touch anything, and don’t go blazing any new paths in the darkness).  Florida Caverns State Park is one such example, and the guided tour through the tunnels is well worth the trip (but again, don’t touch—you will be reprimanded (snicker)).

This article isn’t about just touting the visual splendor –like lakes and caves and such—that can result from sinkholes or other geological activity.  In fact, it originated as a result of my discovery that many cities around the world are slowly sinking into the ground as a result of a phenomenon known as subsidence—the scientific name for what I’ve been discussing—the ground giving way, slowly or abruptly, compromising the structural integrity of anything that might be resting on top.  The most startling information to convey here is that, in a growing number of instances, subsidence is occurring (or is at least being accelerated) as a result of human activity.

Urban development, including housing and businesses, roads and parking lots, retention ponds, well digging, aquifer access, fracking…all can contribute to shaking up the stability literally under our feet, causing undesirable consequences like…well, like sinking cities.

On this website, which revolves mainly around “all things water,” I include in these discussions all the ways in which humanity is increasingly influencing the course of future civilizations with the actions we take today.  Sinking cities is just one of the hundreds of topics we talk about, including how such situations are caused, as well as the many ways in which science attempts to mitigate the damage when we humans find ourselves slipping in the mud, trying not to be eaten whole by a bus-crushing sinkhole.

Check out these related articles on my website.  Enjoy and sincere thanks for stopping by!


Sinking Bangkok

The Ground Beneath Us

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