Saturday, September 9, 2017

How Hurricanes Turn Nature Upside Down

We had a post entitled "Watching the Wind at Ventusky - UPDATED" which formerly filled this spot in the queue that we could not get to display correctly despite repeated attempts. So we took it down.

As far as I can recall this  is the first time in over 20,000 posts that we've unpublished a posting.
Usually if something we put up contains a factual error, we correct it and note the correction. If it is unflattering to ego/judgement/image we leave it up, big picture: who cares? If there are typos we'll sneak back at night (or whenever we hear about it) to change them just for ease of reading.
But we don't pull whole posts, it just isn't done, and I'm a bit shaken by the experience.
So here are a couple more posts about poop.

Alligators wandering through inundated streets, snakes hiding on porch doors, deer careening across neighborhoods, and other wild sights emerged in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. What else would you expect? Hurricanes can shift ecology in strange ways.

The Hawaiian island of Kauai gets overrun with feral chickens after hurricanes. In 1982 and 1992, after Hurricanes Iwa and Inika, respectively, chickens escaped coops and interbred across the island. Hurricane Georges, in 1998, swept the red fruit bat (Stenoderma rufum) onto islands east of Puerto Rico, where they were thought to be extinct. Hurricanes have even caused large, flightless animals, like howler monkeys, to split into other species.

Hurricanes also tweak the natural rhythms of organisms in human habitats in disturbing, impressive ways.

After Hurricane Sandy, pest controllers received an overwhelming amount of calls concerning rat infestations near storm shelters. In the wake of Harvey, entire colonies of fire ants, expelled from soil, linked their water-repellent bodies together into a raft. Encounters between one floating mound and another produced fights.

Non-native and invasive species of plants also break new ground in a hurricane. Ivan, in 2004, brought a wave of torpedograss onto the Gulf coast, and rattlebox rode in on Hurricane Opal’s coattails in 1995. In the Caribbean Sea, hurricanes can pound coral reefs, decreasing coral cover by 15 to 20 percent.

Hurricanes also loose harmful microbes. Following Hurricane Matthew in 2016, people feared the dispersal of the coastal water-loving Vibrio cholerae bacterium, which causes cholera. Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, also threatened a surge in E. coli populations, as raw sewage filled the streets.
When hurricanes tear apart cityscapes and shorelines, and humans rebuild them, the biosphere twists and turns, shuffling the ecological deck.
And from Quartz:

Hurricane Irma will likely cover South Florida with a film of poop
South Floridians are bracing for Hurricane Irma’s potentially catastrophic damage. Weather advisories are warning of massive flooding, which will likely render roads impassable and homes uninhabitable.

They also face a less visible, yet frightening, potential consequence: contamination from uncontained poop.

Just as it downs electricity poles and submerges streets above ground, the avalanche of water unleashed by a hurricane disrupts the order of things down below, where waste goes after you flush. South Florida’s sewer infrastructure is particularly vulnerable. Like many urban areas across the US, its wastewater lines are rickety. On top of that, many locals store their sewage in underground septic tanks, whose contents are prone to escape during storms.

The prospect of poop-laden water pooling around in the streets of Miami is scary enough, yet it’s just a symptom of a much bigger problem that plagues hurricane-prone Florida. Rising sea levels are upending its ability to deal with floodwater—and both sea levels and flood-inducing storms will get worse with climate change.
That’s the real horror story.

Draining the swamp
The only reason the naturally swampy terrain of South Florida can sustain more than six million people today is because its previous residents dredged and drained it. The operations started in the late 1800s, and by the 1970s Floridians had built an expansive network of canals, levees, and pumping stations to keep water at bay. The system, which was designed to let gravity drag groundwater downstream to the ocean, was based on 1930s sea levels, as Frederick Bloetscher, a water-management expert, pointed out during a 2014 US Senate hearing on Florida’s changing coastline....MORE
In addition, though this story doesn't mention it, there also appears to be some sinking of the entire eastern seaboard of the U.S.  This stuff is preliminary but the first study pulling the data together was published last year in Geophysical Research Letters:
Subsidence along the Atlantic Coast of North America: Insights from GPS and late Holocene relative sea level data
Although not focused on Florida the paper gets into some of the problems caused by extracting groundwater which is an area of study we are going to be hearing about more frequently.

With that, enough crap for today. After the storm we'll be back with why Mr. Flagler and the gang probably shouldn't have developed the state in the first place. For now though, pray for the residents.

If interested here's the site we couldn't get to embed properly Ventusky's live wind depiction.