Chasing the storm on Paradise Island

[youtube]What we're witnessing are the tropical storm force winds, perhaps Hurricane Cat 1 winds, hitting Paradise Island. Both amusing (for the commentary) and impressive (the weather itself).Word of caution to all visitors: Paradise Island is a barrier island, protecting one of the most sheltered harbours in the Atlantic. Atlantis is not the place I would choose to stay during any hurricane. It's important to note that the resort has not weathered any direct hits from major hurricanes. The only hurricane to pass directly over Nassau in recent times (i.e. since perhaps David in 1979) was Michelle in 2001, and that was a considerably weakened storm (Cat 1 down from 4. with surges of 5-8 feet (and it also crossed Nassau from the south-west, which was unusual)). But during Hurricane Betsy, which struck from the north-east, and during the 1929 hurricane, the most devastating one to hit New Providence in the 20th century, waves crashed over the top of the Paradise Island lighthouse. True, Irene wasn't a great threat; the size of the hurricane, the location of the eye, and the fact that NP was only going to get tropical storm force winds made staying at Atlantis a good bet. But I wouldn't do it myself.

Hurricane Irene in The Bahamas[View the story "Hurricane Irene Slams Bahamas, Turks & Caicos" on Storify]Not much to report from Nassau -- some wind, a little tiny bit of rain, and frogs. Photos and video from yesterday will get uploaded over time.News coverage from national TV station disgraceful. Limited to the regular news at 7 PM, some specially focussed regular programmes during primetime and reruns from past hurricanes; no ongoing commentary on TV at all. Radio is better. Not sure what the problem is but am certain the economy will be blamed. But with all this foreign investment going on how is it we don't have some $$ to invest in information for the Bahamian citizens throughout the archipelago? Why should we depend on private news sources, especially as we pay taxes to keep the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas afloat -- and because they always seem to have news and cameras enough to cover the politicians when they speak?Just sayin'.Stay safe Bahamas.

Stranded Due to Volcanic Ash - Some info

For those of you who don't know, I'm one of the million or more "ash refugees" around the world. Having come to Belfast for a conference last week, I've been the victim of two flight cancellations because of the closure of UK airspace since last Thursday as the result of the erupting Icelandic volcano. (Don't ask me to spell or pronounce the name. At some point I may try and copy-paste the name but not now.)Of course, this has raised many questions. It's clear that this is not a frivolous move on the part of the UK. Safety appears to be first in all things -- never mind the millions and millions of pounds being lost by cancelled flights. In this, I'm rather pleased to be in the UK, who are notorious about not being bullied into making decisions -- at the moment the more airlines and other agencies squeal the more intransigent the UK authorities are likely to get.But are they being overly cautious? In some ways, I hope so! I'd hate to be in the air over the North Atlantic and have the jet plane lose engine power owing to volcanic ash. And what is the realistic chance of this? In seeking some answers, I came across this:

The decision not to fly any aircraft across Europe since last Thursday is based on the latest guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In turn, the UK's traffic control organisation, Nats, and the Civil Aviation Authority follow the guidance to the letter.The flight which sparked this system was BA 009 - a 747 from Kuala Lumpur to Perth where all four engines stopped at 37,000 feet in 1982. An international agreement followed - and the bottom line now is that volcanic ash means no flights.The agreement set up a number of volcanic ash warning centres around the world. VAAC London (actually based at the Met Office in Exeter) covers Iceland - which is why the UK has taken the lead on this volcano.

via Volcanic ash: how do you spot the next volcano to disrupt flights? Every one listed | News |

It's an interesting piece, and well worth following up. Join me in the challenge.

More information, about the effects of the wind on the ash cloud:

Q: unclecharlie – "There seems to have been little discussion in the news surrounding how and when changes in the wind may blow the ash away from UK airspace. Is this because they are unlikely to have a major effect? Or is it because such changes are unlikely to happen in the near future (i.e within the next few days)?"A: DrGrantAllen – "In response to unclecharlie, the reason we can not accurately say when the plume will not be "blown our way" is because we have been subject to what we call a "blocking high", similar to the weather regime which brought the cold snap in early January. The eventual breakdown of blocking highs is hard to perdict accurately, perhaps only with 2-3 days notice. Currently, and thankfully, it would appear that there is a likelihood that this high pressure system will break down around Friday, which would mean a return to Westerly winds from the Atlantic, which would mean the ash would not be blown South as it has recently."via "Iceland Volcano - millions remain stranded" |

And finally, this one, which explains why (pace Rick) I am far happier to be grounded by the safety considerations being followed by the UK government and authorities than to be hurtling through the sky as part of the profit-loss calculations carried out by airlines and their accountants.

there's an innate rationality to the logic of allowing bad things to happen. After all, car manufacturers, like airlines, are in the business of risk management. It's part and parcel of their existence that they take calculated risks, some of which will affect the sanctity of life for a few, very unlucky individuals.


Ask the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and it will no doubt cite a plethora of reasons for why airlines keep losing money. But they all boil down to the fact that projecting human beings 35,000 feet into the sky without killing them is exceptionally difficult. That makes it expensive. Which makes an invisible risk factor, costing £130m a day, something many airlines would prefer to brush under the rug.


... European airlines have been quick to rubbish claims by air traffic controllers that passengers are at risk. BA, KLM and Air Berlin insist the modest number of test flights they ran over the weekend conclusively prove the threat is overblown. The IATA says Europe's reaction to the disaster has been an "embarrassment". Yesterday, Simon Jenkins suggested on Cif that our healthy and safety culture had caused aviation authorities to overreact.

You shouldn't listen to any of them. Even if it turns out the duration of the flight ban was excessive, hindsight is a wonderful thing and that conclusion will only have been reached after days of testing.

via Martin Rivers, "When it comes to the ash cloud and planes, trust the scientists" |

I'm with Martin Rivers. So far, I'm stuck in Belfast now -- till Monday coming!

Happy springtime.

Melting Ice Could Lead to Massive Waves of Climate Refugees

As the Earth warms, the melting of its two massive ice sheets—Antarctica and Greenland—could raise sea level enormously.via

Last month's earthquake in Haiti brought out two sides of Bahamians: the all-too-common bigotry that holds tight onto what we've achieved over the past forty years and refuses to share our good fortune with others, and a generosity and compassion that signals a possible change in the way we talk about ourselves, our country, and our neighbours.What struck me, though, was the almost unquestioning subtext of both: the growing-old refrain that we are blessed, we are special, God has smiled upon us, and therefore we must either keep that blessing selfishly to ourselves or spread it more generously than we have done in the past.And we've gone off to thank God, to congratulate ourselves, that we were not so unfortunate as to have had an earthquake here in our land, that we are mostly outside the earthquake zone (except Inagua, which is close enough to the fault that shook Port-au-Prince to have experienced the earth's shaking at different times in its history).What I wonder about, though, is the question of why in all our discussions about blessedness, in all our wrangling about who-won-Elizabeth, in all our self-centredness and short-sightedness, no one -- not during the debates, not during the discussions on the air, nowhere, not even during the Copenhagen talks last year -- has raised the issue that should have every Bahamian deeply concerned: the question of the impact that global warming will have on ocean warming, the melting of the ice caps, and the eventual rising of the seas.Now it's possible for us to not-believe all the science about global warming. I myself, while accepting the research and the results, and believing entirely that the earth's climate is experiencing some major changes, am vaguely sceptical about the stated causes of climate change, and am also not always convinced about the predicted results of it.BUT.  One thing that isn't in dispute at the moment is that the ocean temperature is currently rising. Or, to be more precise: "July 2009 was the hottest month for the world's oceans in almost 130 years of record-keeping" (Seas at Risk.Org); and that scientists are noticing a shrinkage of the ice sheets of both Greenland and Antarctica.Here's what that means:

If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would raise sea level 7 meters 23 feet. Melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet would raise sea level 5 meters 16 feet. But even just partial melting of these ice sheets will have a dramatic effect on sea level rise.Senior scientists are noting that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC projections of sea level rise during this century of 18 to 59 centimeters are already obsolete and that a rise of 2 meters during this time is within range.via Melting Ice Could Lead to Massive Waves of Climate Refugees |

Here's what that means to our country.The Bahamas is flat, low-lying, with few points on any island that can be considered high ground. Our highest point, way away on Cat Island, is 206 ft (63 metres) above sea level. But what's perhaps more worrying is that our fresh water sources are universally fresh water lenses, which rely to some degree on the stability of the salt water levels to continue to provide us with fresh water levels. Consider the fact, too, that New Providence gets its fresh water barged in from Andros (having long outgrown/contaminated the local freshwater lens, which was once considerable for a Bahamian island, but which can in no way support Nassau's population of a quarter of a million people, give or take), and that Andros is one of the flatter, lower islands. We don't know what impact rising sea levels might have on that.So it's not inconceivable that rising sea levels will turn Bahamians back into what for the past three generations we have not been: migrants, refugees, emigrants in search of dry land. It's not inconceivable that Atlantis, for the past decade or so our "saviour", may be what we actually become one of these days -- a sunken country, our property reclaimed by the sea. One of these days, The Bahamas may become just a memory to be kept alive by those most reviled of us all -- our artists.Just saying.

Nah, ya see ...

It isn't a frivolous thing to protest against the way in which people expect to view Africa (and the rest of the third world for that matter, where skins are dark and palm trees feather the skyline).  I know Hurricane Ike was a bastard, and ripped up the southern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos and slammed Cuba and is now going to hammer Texas.  I know this, and so do you.But is there any excuse for the kind of coverage provided below?BBC NEWS | Americas | Paradise flattened in storm's wakeHere are other ways in which the BBC has reported on the storm:Images of Ike (almost all of Cuba, which racks up the heartstring points)And here is how the local media covered it:Images of Ike damage in Inagua, including millions of dollars' damage at Morton SaltMy conclusion:  our lens sees damage.  The lens of the BBC seeks human distress.All the better to underline, once again, and subtly (or not-so-subtly) the wonders of being civilized.I wrong?***(15/09/08) Edit: So maybe a little wrong, and certainly a lot biased.  Here are some other links to consider before weighing in on the discussion:New York Times on Ike (May require a password to view)LA Times on IkeHuffington Post on Ike