PBS debuted earlier this Spring, a new episode of its hit science program, NOVA that is a good fit for the start of the annual hurricane season in Hurricane Sandy: Inside the Megastorm. Being that this year’s hurricane season starts tomorrow, June 1st, what better time for audiences to check out this episode? Hurricane Sandy: Inside the Megastorm is an interesting look into what was the single most destructive storm of the 2012 hurricane season. It offers viewers a first-hand look at the destruction caused throughout New York and New Jersey through those that were affected by the storm. It also uses interviews with professionals and academics to explain what exactly led to the creation of what would eventually be termed, “Frankenstorm” because it hit right around Halloween. In connection, the discussions on whether or not global warming played a role in its power is certain to become a point of contention as they seem to counter one another. Despite noting discussions on what can be done to better protect ourselves from megastorms, those discussions are in fact extremely brief. Luckily, everything else that went into this program more than makes up for that lack, leading this episode to be another interesting feature from NOVA.
The majority of the roughly hour-long feature on Hurricane Sandy is spent telling the story of Sandy’s creation to its aftermath. Most interesting to note here is how those in the Northeast largely played it off because of the ineffectiveness of Hurricane Irene, which hit the New York region in 2011. This is the same mentality shared among so many throughout the East Coast and Gulf Coast to this day. But obviously that view has changed as a result of Sandy. The sights of flooding and the stories of the lives affected by the storm will move any viewer; sometimes even to the point of tears. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The very brief discussion on the European hurricane models and how they, too were ignored makes the story of this originally unassuming storm even more interesting. Viewers will take interest in the note that officials with NOAA had themselves ignored European models that had months prior predicted Sandy would in fact make its fateful Westerly turn and head straight into the heart of New York and New Jersey. This adds interest in that Americans rarely—if ever—hear anything from forecasters in the U.S. about European models versus American models each year. Perhaps this could be the point of discussion in a later episode of NOVA.
While this episode serves as a starting point for a deeper discussion on European hurricane models versus American “spaghetti models”, the discussions on whether or not global warming played a role in Sandy’s size and destructive power are sure to become even more of a point of contention among viewers, whether citizens or professional meteorologists. Viewers should know that the program does in fact note that a Nor’easter did play a role in the storm’s size and strength. That fact is not ignored here. But later in the program, individuals are interviewed to discuss the role of global warming on Sandy and potential future storms. Those that pay close attention will note that the discussions tend to contradict one another. At first, it is noted that there is no definitive link between global warming and the size and strength of storms, nor their frequency. In almost the same breath though, those same individuals note that there is a connection between rising atmospheric temperatures and water temperatures, which are in turn, linked to the decrease in ice at the polar ice caps, rising ocean levels, and rising water temperatures thus causing an increase not so much in the quantity of storms, but in their power. The discussions in question are even more in depth. This is just a quick overview. But from this alone, it certainly seems that the discussions included here are very contradictory and are certain to be a point of major contention. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer to that is sure to be rather contentious in itself. Because of that, it’s just one more factor that makes Hurricane Sandy: Inside the Megastorm a program that anyone will want to see, whether casual viewer or a professional within the “weather industry.” Hurricane Sandy: Inside the Megastorm is available now. It can be ordered online via the PBS store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=17355946&cp=&kw=inside+the+megastorm&origkw=Inside+The+Megastorm&sr=1.
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