In the news this week:
Andy Revkin at the NY Times has a news story and a blog post about the UN's new report assessing disaster risk. One of the experts quoted in his story sent him a comment with a lot of concern about the promotional video. Dave Petley (who writes Dave's Landslide Blog) looked at the report, and criticizes its assessment of landslide hazards. I haven't looked at the report myself (and it's long, unfortunately, so there's no way I'll be able to digest it in time for class this week), but I will try to keep the criticisms in mind when I do.
I had no idea that there was a trial alleging that the US government is responsible for the damage to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The argument is that the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (aka "Mr. Go") allowed the storm surge to travel much more effectively towards New Orleans. But there is, and the arguments were heard this week. Check out the full story at NPR for the details.
And finally, in the world of climate change data, NASA's Earth Observatory has a fantastic visualization of changes in Arctic sea-ice extent over the past decade. If you want to see the images for yourself (rather than, say, trusting George Will's description of it), take a look.
The whole of the Louisiana Gulf coast has been affected by the Gulf Outlet. Silt is being 'ejected' by higher current flows into deep shelf waters and not allowed then to migrate along/in-shore to the west of the delta and be deposited by hurricanes as they bring water onshore. The problem for New Orleans is east of the delta which has not been allowed any delta splays to deposit sediments and create barrier wetlands which soak up hurricane surges.
I remember back in the 70s that these same problems were identified and discussed during my schooling in geology. But man (and civil engineeers) seem to have all the answers... *sigh* Memories of teaching labs in the class 'geology for engineers' comes to mind.
I checked out the link, and I'd have to say I'll be very surprised if the Nola residents win their case. But then again, I haven't been in the courtroom listening to the testimony. I suspect the case will hinge upon whether it can be quantitatively demonstrated that the storm surge was x% higher because of MRGO and that x% was just enough to cause flooding where there wouldn't otherwise have been flooding. For their sake, I hope the plaintiffs have good experts.