Is This Our New Normal?

The intense havoc wreaked by this past weekend’s storm, coming on the heels of the storm of January that similarly brought devastation to many areas throughout the state, has left all of us wondering whether this is the new normal for our sliver of the planet.

We read somewhere that both of these storms were the equivalent of 100-year storms. In other words, there was a one percent chance of either occurring — and we got two of them within a month. We’ll let the high school students in an AP Stats course figure out the likelihood of that happening, but we’ll venture an educated guess that the probability of two such storms coming within 60 days is astronomically high (we suppose you would multiply 100 x 365 and then factor in the 60 days somehow).

For those of us of a certain age, we can remember similarly big storms from the recent past. The mayor of Gloucester likened this past weekend’s storm to the infamous No-Name Storm of October 30-31, 1991, also known as The Perfect Storm, from the book and movie of that name.

However, the No-Name Storm came about as a result of a confluence of meteorological events that separately were no big deal. But when they happened to come together a few hundred miles off the Northeastern Seaboard and then made a beeline for the coast, they combined to make for an incredibly powerful weather system.

Before that we had the Blizzard of ’78, which has been in the news lately because of its 40th anniversary. We recall that just two weeks before that blizzard, there was another blizzard that at the time was dubbed the Blizzard of the Century, until two weeks later, along came its bigger brother.

So the point we’re making is that it could be said that these two storms of the past month are no big deal; that they are nothing more than major weather events of the sort that occur every now and then and that can seem outsized in their effects because of the coincidence of extremely high tides.

So maybe that’s all there is to it.

On the other hand, the nature and extent of the flooding from these storms was something we never had seen before. We never recall seeing the Seaport District of Boston being flooded as it was in these two recent storms.

Moreover, our recent flooding events are happening with regularity in other places. The streets of Miami now routinely flood; communities along the Alaskan coastline are being swallowed by the ocean; and island nations are disappearing  because of the rise in sea level.

It would be so easy to be complacent about all of this and not see a link to climate change.

But it is our belief that if we ignore what is obvious, we do so at our peril. There is something going on that is happening faster than even the most dire of predictions.  Climate change and its effects appear to be accelerating rapidly — and that is not a good thing.

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