Saturday, May 10, 2008

Natural Phenomena Do Not Respect National Boundaries!

A very thought provoking editorial in the New York Times today by on
of the most fabulous writers of our times, Amitav Ghosh begins as

"THE word "cyclone" was coined in Calcutta (now called Kolkata) in the
1840s by an eccentric Englishman named Henry Piddington. Inspired by
the great British meteorologist William Reid, Piddington became one of
the earliest storm-chasers, besotted with a phenomenon that he once
likened to a "beautiful meteorite." His elegant coinage was originally
intended as a generic name for all revolving weather events, but is
now applied mainly to the storms of the Indian Ocean region like
Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma with devastating effect last week.

Piddington was among the earliest to recognize that a cyclone wreaks
most of its damage not through wind but through water, by means of the
devastating wave that is known as a "storm surge." In 1853, when the
British colonial authorities were planning an elaborate new port on
the outer edge of Bengal's mangrove forests, he issued an unambiguous
warning: "Everyone and everything must be prepared to see a day when,
in the midst of the horrors of a hurricane, they will find a terrific
mass of salt water rolling in ..." His warning was neglected and Port
Canning was built, only to be obliterated by a cyclonic surge in 1867.

The phenomenon of the storm surge has been extensively researched
since Piddington's day, yet few public-response systems have drawn the
obvious lesson. To this day, the warnings that accompany a storm's
approach typically say nothing about moving to high ground: their
prescription is usually to seek shelter indoors. As a result people
tend to hunker down in the strongest structure within reach — only to
find themselves trapped when the surge comes sweeping through.

But even if they were fully warned, where would those people go?"

Read the full editorial at--

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