Brown ocean effect

What maps would look like if they showed only solid land. The light blue indicates swamps, marshes, and wetlands.

Hurricane Ida grew quickly powerful after just a couple of days before roaring ashore and inundating people who have seen it before and likely will again:

By the time Hurricane Ida made landfall in Port Fourchon, La., on Sunday, it was the poster child for a climate change-driven disaster. The fast-growing, ferocious storm brought 150-mile-per-hour wind, torrential rain and seven feet of storm surge to the most vulnerable part of the U.S. coast. It rivals the most powerful storm ever to strike the state.

“This is exactly the kind of thing we’re going to have to get used to as the planet warms,” said Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies the physics of hurricanes and their connection to the climate.

And the recent UN Climate report aside, scientists have been talking about this for years:

previous NASA-funded research by Theresa Andersen and J. Marshall Shepherd making the case that a “brown ocean effect” — evaporation from moist warm soils — can energize tropical systems.

A NASA news release on the 2013 research explained:

Before making landfall, tropical storms gather power from the warm waters of the ocean. Storms in the newly defined category derive their energy instead from the evaporation of abundant soil moisture – a phenomenon that Andersen and Shepherd call the “brown ocean.”

“The land essentially mimics the moisture-rich environment of the ocean, where the storm originated,” Andersen said.

The map above says it all, and when we look at the photos from Sunday-Monday, listen to what we tell ourselves about what we see.

Image via the New Yorker

Logically circular

So… climate change is resulting in more and more severe storms of all kinds, and now (soon) one of the drivers of our gloriously enhanced CO2 budget will be able to power your home when the power gets knocked out because of those more severe storms:

Believe it or not, this battery-powered truck can really power your house when the lights go out, and better still, doing so won’t require a rat’s nest of extension cords or even a portable generator. What Ford calls Intelligent Backup Power enables this all-electric rig to feed power from its enormous battery pack through its hardwired wall charger directly into your home’s electrical system.

As you might suspect, electric cars store positively enormous amounts of energy in their batteries. After all, it takes a lot of juice to move a multi-ton vehicle at interstate speeds for hundreds of miles. When it goes on sale next year, the new Lightning will offer two battery pack sizes, the smaller of which should provide 230 miles of range and the bigger one about 300. Ford hasn’t said how large these electron reservoirs are, but we’re estimating they’ll clock in at roughly 110 and 150 kWh, respectively.

The F-150 Lightning can provide up to 9.6 kW of power output. According to Ford, that’s more than enough to fully power a house at any one time, and considering the size of the battery, it could do that for at least three days (based on a daily average of 30 kWh). The automaker says you can make that power last for up to 10 days if you ration the electricity accordingly. Kind of like hypermiling for your home.

Definitely some prepper fanboy-ing going on with this soothing new pickup, though we are far beyond any shyness or shame about making fun of things both ironically and unironically at the same time. Ah, the land of opportunity. No need to waste your time hating on only one brand of irony.

ETA – Actually, there is no real reason to be hating on much of anything and this example nutshells the fundamental conundrum as first articulated (over to your right, there >). Can we market our way out of this? It’s like the punchline to this entire site.

The outer edges fuel the storm

Though tropical cyclones can also gain strength over land, we have seen and experienced elections decided at the outer bounds of rationality, not to mention national borders. And the same goes for scandals. When the two are one and the same, we reach a distinct crossing over into all manner of non-metaphorical winds, downed trees, powerlessness, looting even.
Still it’s important to realize that the fundamental strength of the storm comes from good old warm water in open ocean, just as the current, inspired presidenting comes from heartland voters and good christians everywhere. Sure, climate change and the Russians probably had something to do with the current disasters. But really they were only helping fuel the storm.

“Good People of Leadville”

From a localized opera theme this morning, this following is from American Opera: The Sublimation of Ordinariness by Derek Mills, concerned primarily with Douglas Moore’s “The Ballad of Baby Doe.”

“What, then, is the American, this new man?”, Hector St. John de Crevecoeur

asked over two centuries ago. It is with the response to this familiar defining

question that American national opera–just as American national painting or

American national fiction–must necessarily be concerned.

Certainly the quip that “American national opera is an oxymoron” is not

without justification. The repertoire has a long enough history, but its enduring

successes have been comparatively few. Nevertheless, an interesting body of

such work has emerged that treats American themes and American

experience, that wrestles with the essential question of the meaning of being

American. And on any short list of those operas would be Douglas Moore’s

The Ballad of Baby Doe.

The leitmotif of Moore’s operatic output, from the singspiel Devil and Daniel

Webster that he wrote with playwright Stephen Vincent Benet in 1939 to his

final opera about the prohibitionist Carry Nation in 1966, was Americana. In a

sense, Moore is the Vaughan Williams of America music, or, to change the

figure, a musical stylist much as Graham Greene or Anne Tyler are literary

ones. His work is comparatively simple and accessible, with familiar melodic

ideas and a ready theatrical sense. Indeed, Moore’s music, while neither

complex nor cerebral, has an “authenticity” that, as the composer Yehudi

Wyner comments, causes a listener “mysteriously, to grow increasingly fond

of it.”

One of Baby Doe’s greatest strengths is John Latouche’s inspired libretto.

Latouche, who had a remarkable ear for the American idiom, assembled here

our vernacular in a manner at once poetic and natural. Whole scenes are

written using collections of cleverly captured clichés and oral rhythms woven

together musically; they have an ease which makes them seem more a part of

a play than of an opera. It is recitative that ripples with reality.

The story is quintessentially American as well. It chronicles an actual incident

in nineteenth century history that involved common folk-ordinary Americans

trying to survive, succeed, find love and fortune and meaning in a world of

rapidly shifting values and mores. It’s a love triangle involving Colorado’s

silver king, Horace Tabor, his puritanical wife Augusta, and Elizabeth “Baby”

Doe, the “miners’ sweetheart” who would become the classic “other woman.”

It’s a story with political, social, and fiscal implications redolent of daily life

even now–indeed, with the Clinton-Lewinsky affair prominent in the press,

one of the lines, “another administration scandal,” broke up the Boston

audience during a recent matinee!

Baby Doe has acquired an orthodox performance canon over the years,

shaped to a large degree by the recording with Beverly Sills in the title role and

Emerson Buckley conducting. But recent productions–in Hartford,

Washington, D.C. and Kansas City–have shown some experimentation in

both staging and directing, and January’s Boston mounting offered powerful

new insights that may contribute to a revised performance tradition.

Boston brought together the rare combination of a woman as director and a

woman as conductor, rendered even rarer by the fact that both are former

sopranos (and one, director Sharon Daniels, have been a well-regarded Baby

Doe). Daniels seems to sense the essence of this opera to be relationship, and

thus emphasized not only the usual political and social aspects of its use of

Americana, but also its preoccupation with “moving west” as a personal

journey, and with the reinvention urge that seems to overcome so many of us

at mid-life.

This is an epic tale, to be sure, but it’s an epic of dailiness. The Tabor were

real people, and their quest was homely rather than heroic–or heroic because

it was homely. It’s an epic for the America of Studs Terkel, not for the Greece

of Homer. And it is precisely this dailiness, this ordinariness, this “folks like

us” quality that suffuses American opera as a genre. This is what we see, for

instance, in Porgy’s enduring optimism, in the unintended tragedy of the

Maurrants in Weill’s Street Scene, in John Proctor’s all-too-human nobility in

Ward’s Crucible, in Susan B. Anthony’s pensive reflection on the meaning of

her own “long life” which concludes Thomson’s Mother of Us All.

And perhaps that finally is what makes American national opera significant–its

ability to capture the essence of how we live, of the relationships we choose

and the frontiers we conquer and the messes we make, of how our lives have

become an enduring historical answer to de Crevecoeur’s question. This “new

man, this American”–flawed, fumbling and free–is at the center of America’s

national operas, and is quintessentially depicted in The Ballad of Baby Doe.