Climate Cast: Was Irma Florida’s warning shot?

Thankfully Hurricane Irma wasn’t The Big One for Miami. But Irma’s widespread storms surge and wind damage across Florida, and her Category 1 level effects on Miami were a warning shot.

As a Category 5 storm,  Irma basically wiped out places like St. Maarten, Barbuda and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and northern Cuba. Irma caused extensive damage in the Florida keys, then turned her wrath on the rest of Florida.

I caught up with Politico Journalist and author Michael Grunwald in Florida this week.

His book; The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise looks at the history of south Florida’s development, amid hurricane ravaged swampland. His recent piece in Politico is aptly titled: A Requiem for Florida, the Paradise That Should Never Have Been

In this week’s Climate Cast I asked Michael for Floridians’ perspectives on storms like Irma in light of climate change, and if Miami is feeling lucky after Irma.

  1. Listen Climate Cast: ‘The Swamp’

    Sept. 15, 2017

Hurricane economic disruption

As we pick up the pieces from Irma, economists are still in the process of assessing damage costs for Hurricane HarveyCNBC reports the latest projections find that ‘hurricane disruption’ could lower Q3 GDP by 1%, and may cost as many as 100,000 jobs to the U.S. economy. Harvey alone may end up costing $200-billion.

Black Knight Financial Services estimates 3-hundred thousand homeowners in Texas are expected to fall behind on mortgage payments. That analysis compared mortgaged properties in FEMA-designated disaster areas in Houston to those in Hurricane Katrina. They analyzed resulting delinquencies in the four months following Katrina.

In Florida, there are 2-million mortgaged properties in Irma-related FEMA disaster areas. That’s more than four times more than Katrina and twice as many as Harvey.

The financial impact in Florida may be different because of the different nature of the storms, but a high number of additional mortgage delinquencies is almost certain.

Goldman Sachs estimates about 10 percent of the U.S. population was directly impacted by Harvey and Irma.

La Nina watch

Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific are trending cooler than average now.


And the climate models say that trend is likely to continue into fall and winter.

Today NOAA issued a “La Nina watch.” NOAA puts the odds of a La Nina event…temperatures at least 0.5-degrees C cooler than average, at 55 to 60-percent this winter.

La Nina winter tend to produce jet stream pattern that favors colder than average temperatures in the northern U.S.


Every La Nina is different. But about 70 to 80-percent of La Nina winters statistically skew toward colder than average temperatures overall In Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.


There’s also a slight bias in La Nina winters toward higher than average snowfall.

Now, if this La Nina happens, it falls against the trend of dramatically warmer winters overall in Minnesota over the past 20-30 years. So, the atmospheric bias toward a colder winter will be bucking that trend.

At this point, I’ll believe a colder than average winter in Minnesota when I see it, But the odds of a ‘respectable winter’ this year, are growing.

Stay tuned.

  • C.M. Jones

    Paul, please continue to provide delightful updates on the growing probability of a La Nina paradigm. I haven’t experienced seasonal satisfaction since the glorious winter of 2013-14, when subzero temps set up shop for weeks on end and the same snow that fell in November was still on the ground in late March. Given that year’s status as one of the coldest Minnesota winters on record, asking for a repeat of such Arctic bliss may be a rather tall order, but I’m hoping for something in that ballpark. The temperate timidity of our last two winters has been depressing beyond description.