FROM SANDY TO MARIA

Are monster storms becoming more frequent and more severe? PBS’ “NOVA” gives us the science behind the “Rise of Superstorms.”

Aired on June 26, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> WHEN SUPERSTORM SANDY MADE LANDFALL NEAR NEW JERSEY NEARLY SIX YEARS AGO IT SHOCKED A REGION NOT USED TO DEVASTATING POWER OF HURRICANES.

THAT STORM KILLED DOZENS AND BROUGHT NEW YORK CITY TO A STAND TILL.

FLOODING COASTAL AREAS, DESTROYING HOMES AND LEAVING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS WITHOUT POWER FOR DAYS.

THE IMPACT OF SANDY ON OUR REGION CAN STILL BE FELT TODAY.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE UPCOMING 15-MONTH SHUT DOWN OF THE L TRAIN TO TUNNELS DANIELS.

SUPERSTORMTS MAY BE RARE BUT SCIENTISTING WARNED THAT MAY NOT BE THE CASE FOR LONG.

EVEN BIG ARE AND MORE FREQUENT STORMS COULD BE THE NEW NORMAL.

IN JUST A ONE-MONTH PERIOD LAST YEAR THREE MONSTER HURRICANES HARVEY, IRMA AND MARIA TORE THROUGH THE CARIBBEAN AND UNITED STATES KILLING HUNDREDS AND CAUSING MORE THAN $100 BILLION IN DAMAGE.

RISE OF THE SUPERSTORMS, A NEW DUPLICATORY FROM OUR FRIENDS AT NOVA LOOKS AT THE SCIENCE BEHIND THESE MASSIVE STORMS AND AT THE CUTTING EDGE RESEARCH BEING DONE TO BETTER PREDICT AND PREPARE FOR THE NEXT BIG ONE.

HERE IS A PREVIEW.

HARVEY IN.

WINDS IN EXCESS OF 190-MILE-PER-HOUR.

IRMA.

DO NOT WIT FOR THIS SKORM ZPLO MARIA THREE MONSTER HURRICANES IN A SINGLE MONTH.

THE ISLAND RIGHT HERE WAS ON TOP OF US.

IS IT A FLUKE OR THE NEW NORMAL.

IT'S HAPPENING MORE OFTEN WITH WARM O WARMER OCEANS AND CLIMB CHANGE.

WE'RE PUTTING A LIFE VEST ON SFWLU OKAY.

ARE WE PREPARED FOR THE RISE OF THE STORM STORMS ON NOVA?

AND JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY AS PART OF OUR PEARL AND PROMISE INITIATIVE OF THE HUMAN IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE, IS THE WRITER, PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR OF NOVA RISE OF THE IS SUPERSTORMS LEASELE CLARK.

LEASELE WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

NOW, LEASELE, IN THE DOCUMENTARY YOU MAKE THE COMPELLING CASE THAT LAST YEAR'S HURRICANES WERE AN UNPRECEDENTED VET IF YOU ADD THEM ALTOGETHER.

UNPRECEDENTED WERE THE HURRICANES.

WELL IT HAD BEEN 13 YEARS SINCE A MAJOR HURRICANE CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE HAD ACTUALLY MADE LANDFALL IN U.S. TERRITORY.

SO FOR -- FOR THREE TO HIT BACK TO BACK IN ONE YEAR WAS QUITE DEVASTATING.

HURRICANES ARE KNOWN TO ACTUALLY HIT IN SUCCESSION.

PEOPLE SAY THEY CAN COME IN CLUSTERS ALMOST LAKE BANANAS COME IN CLUSTERS.

THEY ARE KNOWN TO DO THAT IF THE CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT.

AND LAST YEAR, LAST FALL CONDITIONS WERE CERTAINLY RIGHT.

SOMETHING WE SEE OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND THAT YOU FOCUSED ON IS THAT, YOU KNOW, THE PATH AND THE SEVERITY OF THE STORMS IS SELDOM KNOWN FULLY UNTIL THE LAST MOMENT.

IN FACT HARVEY WENT FROM FROM A CATEGORY 1 TO 4 VERY QUICKLY APPARENTLY TO EVERYONE'S SURPRISE.

HOW COME THAT'S THE CASE WHEN WE MADE SUCH STRIDES WITH TECHNOLOGY IN THE FIELD?

IT'S A REALLY GOOD QUESTION.

I THINK THIS IS WHAT IN ENS SORT OF CAUGHT THE GENERAL PUBLIC AND CERTAINLY OFFICIALS BY SURPRISE LAST YEAR.

ALL THREE HURRICANES RAPIDLY INTENSIFIED.

SO RAPID INTENSEFY INDICATION IS WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THP PETITION -- IN A SPAN OF ABOUT 24 HOURS FOR EXAMPLE MARIA I THINK WENT WAS THE ONE TO INTENSIFY THE MOST RAPIDLY GOING FROM ESSENTIALLY A TROPICAL STORM TO A MAJOR HURRICANE IN 24 HOURS.

NOW, WHEN THAT HAPPENS LIKE IN THE CASE OF HARVEY, WHEN WHEN A STORM IS CLOSE TO LANDFALL, THAT DOESN'T GIVE OFFICIALS ENOUGH TIME TO -- YOU KNOW, TO TELL PEOPLE TO EITHER EVACUATE OR SHELTER IN PLACE.

IN EITHER SITUATION PEOPLE HAVE TO BE PREPARED.

SO WHAT'S CAUSING THESE STORMS IN SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT GLOBAL WARMING OR CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE SOLE CAUSE OF THESE INCREASING STORMS.

WHAT'S YOUR TAKE?

YOU KNOW, FROM READING ALL THE PAPERS AND VIEWING THE RESEARCH THAT'S NECESSARY TO DO A FILM LIKE THIS, IT LOOKS LIKE CLIMATE IS POINTING TOWARDS THE FACT THAT WE CAN EXPECT NOT NECESSARILY MORE FREQUENT HURRICANES BUT WHEN THE CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT HURRICANES WILL -- WILL BREW UP AND FORM INTO MAJOR HURRICANES, WHICH ARE ONE OF THE MOST DESTRUCTIVIVIVE FORCES ON EARTH.

I THINK PEOPLE ARE NOW -- WE HAVE SORT OF USHERED IN A NEW ERA OF HURRICANE AWARENESS.

AND CERTAINLY FOR PEOPLE LICHAJ IN CARIBBEAN NATIONS AND PUERTO RICOENS IN PARTICULAR, BUT ALSO FOR ANYONE LIMPING ALONG THE COASTLINES WE KNOW THAT THERE IS AND THERE HAS BEEN SEA LEVEL RISE.

WHEN YOU ADD SEA LEVEL RISE INTO HURRICANES MAKING LANDFALL, POTENTIALLY AS STRONGER HURRICANES, THEN YES PEOPLE NEED TO BE MORE PREPARED FOR STORM SURGE.

PREPARATION, I THINK HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH BUILDING CODES AND -- AND YOU KNOW, IF YOU'RE GOING TO BUILD NEW, THEN PEOPLE NEED TO START THINKING ALONG THE COAST ABOUT BUILDING MORE APPROPRIATELY FOR BEING ABLE TO SUSTAIN WIND DAMAGE AND STORM SURGE.

SO REALLY QUICKLY IS THIS THE NEW NORMAL?

I THINK THIS HAS A VERY STRONG CHANCE OF BEING THE NEW NORMAL.

WHAT'S INTERESTING IS THAT THE SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES WERE LOOKING LIKE THEY WERE GOING TO BE VERY HIGH THIS SEASON.

BUT AT THE LAST MINUTE THEY HAVE STARTED TO SORT OF TREND LOWER.

SO, YOU KNOW, WE'RE NOT SURE WHAT'S HAPPENING THIS YEAR.

OFFICIALS WERE WERE SAYING THEY WERE EXPECTED A LITTLE ABOVE AVERAGE HURRICANE ACTIVITY THIS YEAR.

BUT AT THIS STAGE IT LOOKS LIKE IT WILL BE NORMAL.

SO IT MAY BE QUITE SIMILAR TO LAST YEAR OR WE MAY HAVE, YOU KNOW, NOT MAJOR HURRICANES BUT CERTAINLY SOME HURRICANES.

ALL RIGHT, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

AND THANK YOU FOR THE DOCUMENTARY.

IT'S VERY INSTRUCTIVE.

THANK YOU.

NOVA EE RICE OF THE SUPERSTORM PREMIERES.

PLEASE CHECKLISTING FOR AIR TIMES.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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