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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

The Big One

Author: Guest Writer/Saturday, October 20, 2012/Categories: Uncategorized

My hometown, Los Angeles, always gets a bum rap. Whether being destroyed by massive continental plates rupturing the San Andres Fault (2012), to attacks by creepy alien invaders (Battle LA), or the city being taken over by crazed zombies (Zombieland), LA comes out the looser. Forget the zombies munching on everyone in Santa Monica, NASA now informs me that a monster hurricane isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

NASA now says the old California adage that southern California only has four seasons: earthquake, fire, flood and drought maybe needs an update, particularly if a hurricane were to pass nearby. This doesn’t sound good.. Currently oceanic hurricane affects usually take the form of rainfall resulting from the remnants of a tropical cyclone in the eastern Pacific. Periodically, big Pacific storms can drench the California coast. However, the space agency has posed the question: could a true hurricane ever make landfall in Southern California? That’s an excellent question for a region with a population of over 22 million (2010) and the answer is maybe.

According to climatologist Bill Patzert, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, hurricanes require surface water temperatures of more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit to form and fuel the big storms. But water temperatures never get that high north of central Baja California. Generally, low the 60’s F is about as warm as the surface ocean ever gets farther from shore and elsewhere in coastal California. However, in 1997, Hurricane Linda developed an erratic path and in one simulation it was heading directly towards southern California as shown by the graphic insert. As the huge storm neared the coast, it turned west out into the Pacific Ocean. This isn’t reassuring.

You can read Patzert’s full interview with NASA on the potential for Southern California hurricanes here.


Hurricane Linda rendered from NOAA data

(credit: NASA)

I expect Hollywood is already developing their next LA disaster movie with the new JPL insights. Perhaps the screenwriters will have the zombies getting blown into town by the next “big one” to menace my favorite beach haunts.



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