Tuesday 30 October 2012

What Can Happen Next?

On Tuesday 23rd October on the end of a ramble round the shire post I wondered in which direction Tropical Storm, potential hurricane, Sandy might take after going over The Bahamas.  The track of very many storms in the last three years or so has been for most to turn East and diminish to wet and windy weather in Europe.

But I did speculate that it might go West and be a bad one, although Florida and The Carolinas seemed the most likely victims in that case.  In the event it became the Super Storm, a reality as opposed to an unlikely scenario in a disaster documentary and hit in the place where it would be hardest, New York City.

This could be the kind of “Black Swan Event”, the description owed to Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book, something unpredicted with extensive and unpredictable adverse effects. 

When the scale of Sandy became clear, what worried me was not that the USA central and local government agencies were unprepared, but that it might be too big and too complex for any government to deal with successfully. 

Clearly there is now a very big job, or series of jobs, to be done which will be exceptionally difficult and very costly.

Personally, this weekend we originally had some family matters in hand involving travel between the USA and the UK.  The arrangements were complicated, but then six weeks ago I got The Twitch and scrapped the plans to some disappointment.  Just as well, we might have had a very costly and stressful shambles on our hands.

The trouble is that The Twitch has not gone away.  Although what the next “bad one” might be is unknown and possibly also difficult; maybe it is impossible to predict.  The only rationale I have is that bad news seldom comes along as single items. 

Historically, there is ample evidence for this in all sorts of fields so the thought is hardly original.  In terms of geophysics alone there is enough to look at.  There was a very big earthquake in the last few days that could have had some serious effects.  Also, Sandy has moved attention away from many other matters.

So this is why the picture above is of two Black Swans.  It was taken at Leeds Castle in Kent.  In 1321 there was a kind of “Black Swan” event when Queen Isabella, consort to King Edward II arrived outside the Castle seeking shelter.  

Lady Badlesmere, born Margaret de Clare (see Wikipedia), left in charge by her warring husband greeted her and her entourage with a shower of arrows.  This led to a siege of the Castle and it being taken over by Queen Isabella, with Margaret sent to The Tower of London.

The upshot of this was the Despenser Wars in the Welsh Marches and North of England and the later putsch by Queen Isabella and the Earl of Mortimer to dethrone King Edward II. 

One effect in 1328 was the fixing of an intended temporary border between the Norman French elites in Scotland and England.  We are still trying, without much success, to sort out the consequences.

After Sandy, therefore, what happens next and what future may it bring?

1 comment:

  1. Noticed your comment over on Duff's place. He appears was correct in recommending to link over.

    Sandy looked for some period as if it were going to be a problem owing to a stalled high pressure zone over Greenland. Then there was that low pressure area coming down out of Canada. As to the concerns with EQs, yes recent history with those in excess of +7.0 (Richter) do of late seem to be triggering more follow-ons. Hope you don't mind a few links (US centric):


    This next is being phased out but it's easier to navigate, the last is the newer version:



    Our Cascadia region (Washington state) would seem to be high on the probability list but there're indications of magma exchange in the Salton Sea area of southern California.