Category Archives: Weather

Hurricane Moon

This was my street when Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston. Yes, there is a street – in fact two wide boulevards – under all that water, which is the bayou usually channeled between the boulevards.

Hurricane Florence has now done to the Carolinas what Harvey did to the Texas coast last year – slam in from the sea then dawdle, dumping immense amounts of rain to result in flooding, destruction, and death.

And Astronaut Alexander Gerst on the International Space Station just photographed the eye of the super-typhoon in the Pacific saying, “As if somebody pulled the planet’s gigantic plug. Staring down the eye of yet another fierce storm. Category 5 Super Typhoon Trami is unstoppable and heading for Japan and Taiwan. Be safe down there.”

What with this summer’s hurricanes, Western wildfires, some strong tornadoes surprisingly far north, and entrenched drought in some parts of the US, individuals and institutions increasingly look either foolish or blinded by self-interest and greed as they deny climate change, or even accelerate it.  They’re denying and accelerating it anyway and not just in the US. As a result, industrialized civilization may well tip the Earth’s climate into a slow but inexorable catastrophe.

That’s the background of my novel Hurricane Moon. 

In the late 21st century, with Earth wracked by climate change, an ambitious private foundation launches a starship to find a new world. Aboard the starship Aeonare Catharin Gault, an idealistic astronaut-physician, and Joseph Devreze, a geneticist as brilliant as he is irresponsible. Aeondiscovers two Earth-sized planets in orbit around each other. Planet Green has abundant plant life. Planet Blue is an oceanic world covered with hurricanes. The green world with its bright blue moon seems like a perfect stage for the drama of civilization to begin anew and turn out better this time. But the journey took too long. A millennium of cryostasis—cold suspended animation—has caused insidious genetic damage. Now Catharin must rely on the irresponsible genius Devreze to help her repair the human genome if there is to be a future for the colony on Planet Green. Their mutual attraction ratchets up even as their conflict escalates. Together Catharin and Joe must decide how they can face, and embrace, a future utterly at odds with Aeon’s planned mission and their own expectations.   

In the sense of naming times of the year for full moons – I’ve seen Harvest Moon, Hunter’s Moon, and Moon of Cold-Exploding Trees – a Hurricane Moon has to be a season of crisis. It happens that way in my novel. And it seems to be unfolding on 21st-Century Earth, starting with everyone in striking range of monstrous hurricanes, super-wildfires, and record-setting droughts and heat waves.

Crises indeed.

 

 

A Silver Lining

Hurricane Harvey, which hit a year ago and devastated  many parts of Houston including my neighborhood, had a silver lining for me. With my old car destroyed by the flood, I found a silver cream puff of a Hyundai Elantra at CarMax. This summer I put 6000 miles on this car’s odometer in six Western states, on paved roads and unpaved, through torrential cloudbursts, high elevations, and high temperatures – all without a problem and with great gas mileage and A/C!

Palisade, Nevada

At the same time, my road trip made me think about climate change and its devastating consequences – including worse hurricanes and more wildfires.  We may be seeing the beginning  of climate change on the way to a very bad end.  At midday in a remote part of Nevada, the sky had none of the the clear blue visibility typical in the West. Fires in California and Nevada churned out smoke that turned the setting sun red and the rising moon copper.  Further downwind the skies smoke paled the skies and hazed the landscapes all the way to the Great Salt Lake.

With no silver lining anywhere in sight.

Snow City

Last month, I flew to Reno for the Soaring Society of America’s biennial convention, and was it ever a change from Houston.  Houston was already in an early (and flat)Texas Gulf Coast Spring.  Reno not so much:  surrounded by mountains etched against the sky in dry clear air, under tangles of lenticular clouds, Reno was winter-brown.

And then it snowed.  A lot.

That was a shock to the system for me and all the Southern Californians, Floridians, and attendees from the Southern Hemisphere.  Some had a tough drive or a delayed flight getting there.  But a good convention was had anyway – with old friends, interesting news, and an exhibit hall full of dream machines. (A non-soaring-pilot friend saw this picture and commented, “I didn’t know gliders are so BIG!”)

And Reno?  The sun came out.  The snow sublimated, melted, or stuck around in (relatively) harmless and picturesque places.

Travel is a cognate to the nowadays more ominous word travail.  The root meaning still works.  Travel is challenging even with cars and jets.  It’s debilitating, as any airline pilot can tell you.  Yet when you travel you meet people and places you wouldn’t at home, and you may see wonders. Or even unexpected reminders of home.

 

 

 

After the Storm

For Houstonians, this yard art is a very relatable commentary on how the most unpleasant imaginable Halloween trick came early with Storm Harvey.

 

 

 

 

 

Harvey was really bad, including where I live.  I rode out the storm in comfort on the third floor and never even lost Internet, but with the bayou about two miles wide, my car was a goner. The condos on the first floor got anywhere from a few inches to a few feet of water.

All across town houses got flooded that had NEVER flooded before. In some cases these were 40-year-old homes that had never even come close to flooding.  People had to rip out wet carpet, sheet rock and insulation, baseboards, wood flooring that looked dryable but turned out to have puddles all under it, appliances, furniture, and books.  The result was streets lined with dismal debris piles.

Houston and other municipalities are scraping these up as fast as possible, but there’s so much it taking a long time.  Before the garbage trucks come the scavengers. People in old pickup trucks drive around collecting appliances, furniture, and flooring to clean, rehabilitate and sell to those who lost what they had and lack flood insurance.

Friends in Bellaire, a self-contained little city surrounded by Houston, say it was a great day when the city debris removal trucks finally came to their street. It was like a parade, with elephantine garbage trucks and people standing out in their yards waving and smiling.

Carbon Circles

I’m driving around in a new (used) car – a silver cream puff that I bought from CarMax.  It’s a Hyundai Elantra.  (Hyundai is approximately pronounced with the first syllable rhyming with June and the second syllable like the English word day. The word means “modernity” in Korean.)

It replaced my previous car – a noble Accord coupe stricken when the bayou across the street overflowed its banks during Hurricane Harvey’s visit to Houston.

 

Harvey’s intensity was in part due to the climate disruption brought about by humankind’s profligate consumption of energy, so say the scientists. One of the most significant sources of the atmospheric carbon dioxide is our collective use of automobiles.

So with cars as it is with people and ideas, my old car played a role, however small, in engendering its own destruction—and rebirth.