Emily LakdawallaOct 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Thanks for lives saved already

Today hurricane Sandy is a major threat to life and property across the west coast of the northern Atlantic ocean (and, indeed, to life and property on the northern Atlantic itself). It doesn't seem appropriate to talk space news in the face of this threat from my meteorological safety here in southern California, so I will be keeping my Internet presence quiet.

I just want to give thanks in advance to all the people who have devoted their careers to making sure that Americans have sufficient warning of devastating, unstoppable weather events like this one, warning that has permitted those with forethought to evacuate themselves from vulnerable locations to safety. In the coming days, we'll see stories of bravery and heroism of emergency responders of all kinds, as they risk life and limb to help those who were unable or (more frustratingly) unwilling to heed the warnings. They deserve our praise. But let's not forget the tens of thousands of lives that have already been saved, even before the storm hits, by the workers of NASA, NOAA, and the National Weather Service, as well as other agencies I'm forgetting to mention. It's not just the tactical awareness that the eyes in space provide us; it's the strategic awareness provided by the professional work of climate modelers, land use monitors, environmental geologists, and oceanographers (among others) that allow us to predict the future and know already which areas are going to need help the most, preventing this disaster from being a much worse one, and speeding the country's recovery. It's worth noting that the men and women who have predicted this storm and prepared us for it are the same people who are predicting (and, for that matter, observing) climate change.

GOES composite image of Earth's globe with Hurricane Sandy, October 28, 2012
GOES composite image of Earth's globe with Hurricane Sandy, October 28, 2012 This global view of Earth is composed of data from visible and infrared channels of GOES-13 image data taken at 11:45 UTC on October 28. At that moment, as the Sun was rising on the eastern seaboard of the United States, hurricane Sandy was approaching. Click the image for an explanation of its composure.Image: NASA GOES project

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