Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Catastrophic Hurricane Season

Some in America are saying it has been an exceptionally light hurricane season. Presumably they are looking at the North Atlantic Ocean. The number of North Atlantic tropical systems this year has been about what you would expect, but their wind speed and combined energy has been low, the lowest in three decades by one measure. Globally, it has been a different story, and that was true even before the typhoon that leveled whole towns over the weekend. The intensity was expected to match that of the most intense tropical cyclone ever to strike land, and early damage reports are generally consistent with that prediction. But with landfall occurring on a minor holiday weekend in the United States, I fear that many American TV news viewers may never learn of it, and may carry on imagining that the world got off easy this hurricane season. The vagaries of the U.S. news cycle often result in major stories getting lost in this manner, and policy decisions are distorted as a result. Of course, announcements of bad news are routinely scheduled for Friday afternoon so that the country will not notice. You could make the case that this is the United States’ Achilles heel, yet it is hard to say how the news of the weekend could be brought into balance with the news of the week.