Is Climate Change Starting a New Dust Bowl? Cycle A

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Santos Alvarado

6341.62 ESSEA Galveston Hurricane – Cycle A

Is Climate Change Starting a New Dust Bowl? Cycle A,8599,1841442,00.html


Hurricanes Dean and Felix both made landfall in Central America in 2007. It was the first time since record keeping began in the late 1800s that two Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes made landfall in the same year. Also, on the same day Felix came ashore, Hurricane Henriette made landfall across the southern tip of Baja California. This marked the first time Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes made landfall on the same day, according to National Hurricane Center records that date back to 1949.

Are hurricanes increasing in intensity and frequency?

A look at the past tells us that intense hurricanes have plagued humans for some time. Even Columbus' fourth voyage in 1502 was marred by a colossal hurricane - one that sunk 20 treasure ships and killed 500 sailors in a nearby Spanish fleet. Was Katrina in 2005 the most devastating hurricane to hit North America in recent history? One might consider the Great Galveston Hurricane at the beginning of the 20th century as a contender.

Galveston, Texas, was on the rise in 1900. A major seaport for shipping cotton, it was in a race with Houston for prominence on the Texan coast. Sixteen foreign country consulates and millionaires' mansions graced the city of 37,000 people. Galveston was totally unprepared for what was about to happen. Many thought it nearly impossible for a hurricane to threaten the city. In late August and early September a tropical storm tracked across the Caribbean Sea and passed between Cuba and Florida. Many believed the storm would turn to the northeast as it passed the Florida Straits north of Cuba. This was a commonly accepted notion of how tropical cyclones were supposed to behave. It was unheard of for them to continue to the west.

But this storm, after strengthening into a hurricane just past Florida, would continue northwest on a path directly toward Galveston. The hurricane pushed a wall of water over 15 feet deep onto the island that, at its highest point, was only 8.7 feet above sea level. The wind whipped through Galveston at what was later estimated to be Category 4 speeds (131-155 mph). A 150 mph gust would have a pressure of 100 pounds per square foot. The lowest barometric pressure recorded during the storm was 28.44 inches. (NOAA later estimated that the pressure near the storm's eye was probably closer to 27.49 inches.) 

On Sept. 9, Galveston lay in desolation. More than 6,000 people lost their lives to what remains the deadliest hurricane to ever hit the United States (some estimates range as high as 12,000 deaths). In addition to the thousands dead, the storm left millions of dollars of destruction in its wake. After making landfall at Galveston, the storm tracked north through Texas and then into Oklahoma and Kansas. The remnants of the storm made it northeastward across the Great Lakes and into Canada before passing north of Halifax on Sept. 12 and disappearing into the North Atlantic.

In addition to the loss of life and property, Galveston lost its allure as shipping firms moved their businesses to Houston. Galveston is now protected by a huge levee system to guard against future storms. Also, after the disaster, a six-mile long seawall was erected and has since been extended. Pumping sand from the ocean floor of the Gulf of Mexico raised the island. All buildings and roads were also constructed with elevated foundations in the city. When the Galveston Hurricane of 1915 hit, the city was much better prepared.
Now that Hurricane Katrina has once again awakened us to the threat of extra strong hurricanes, your group has been called upon to conduct an Earth system analysis of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane as a case study in how to prepare for this increasingly dangerous threat from Mother Nature.

Read and analyze scenario and situation

The 1900 Galveston Hurricane had a great impact on the city of Galveston (6,000 Deaths, Millions of dollars in destruction) and the people living in the area. The hurricane affected how people would live near the ocean coast, and how they will prepare for a hurricane. Hurricanes are a natural disaster that affects coastline cities; we need to come up with new ways to prevent the loss of lives, and damage of hurricanes after landfall

E >B Hurricane destroys vegetation life, due to high-speed winds, damaging hail, and rainfall (Prior Knowledge, Observation)

E > H Hurricanes cause massive flooding in low surround areas, overflow rivers, with the amount of rainfall

E > A Hurricanes affects the air pressure of the region, causes rainfall, and wind speeds to change

E > L Hurricanes cause weathering and erosion to land, because of damaging wind, rainfall, and hail.

E > H Hurricanes become stronger due to warm ocean water

E > H > A the decomposing life (plants, animals, maybe humans) contaminate water and land for other living-organisms.

E > L > B >H Due to the over flooding of the land region, this will cause contamination of water with sewage or remaining still water, which may cause contamination to life and the land.

E > B Human life, Animal Life, and Plant life is affected because of damaging wind speeds, debris, and water

E > B > L Land would be destroyed/eroded, which would lead to the destruction of animal habitats

List your personal understanding, ideas, or hunches

My personal understanding of hurricanes is that they are a major natural disaster force that creates destruction once a hurricane makes land fall. Hurricanes usually originate from storms that come from the coast of Africa, and travel through the ocean gaining strength from the warm ocean waters. I remember when Hurricane Dolly hit near the Rio Grande Valley; we felt the affects of the hurricane, even though we weren’t directly hit (major flooding). Hurricane Katrina destroyed parts of New Orleans due to the flooding and the strength of the Hurricane, people weren’t prepared for a powerful storm. Hurricanes are measured in five categories depending on the speed of their winds. Hurricanes have an eye, center of the storm, and it’s the calmest place within the storm. There is hurricane season, which is approximately between 6-7 months, starts in the summer to October. Meteorologists observe and keep track of hurricanes using special satellites taking images and recording speed patterns of the storm. Hurricanes start off as a tropical depression, and then as they become stronger they change into a tropical storm and then a developed hurricane.

List what is known

The United States experiences hurricane season for 6-7 months. (Prior Knowledge)

Hurricane Galveston destroyed Galveston in the year 1900. (Scenario)

There are five types of categories of hurricanes depending on wind speed. (Prior Knowledge)

Hurricanes get stronger in warm water. (Prior Knowledge)

More than 6,000-12,000 people lost their lives in 1900 Galveston Hurricane. (Scenario)

In 1915, Galveston was more prepared for a Hurricane, with elevated sand foundations and streets. (Scenario)

List what is unknown

What were the effects of the Galveston Hurricane had on the region?

How have climate conditions of hurricane past change compared to today’s climate conditions of hurricanes.

How long do hurricanes last after making landfall?

How has the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico changed in the past century?

Does the warm waters of Gulf of Mexico affect the growth of Hurricanes?

Does El Nino have any affect on hurricane growth?

What materials were used to build houses and building in Galveston in 1900.

How were people warned about hurricanes in the 1900’s?

How soon (time frame) are people warned about approaching hurricanes?

Does global warming have an affect on the strength of hurricanes?

Does pumping sand from the ocean floor have greater effect on protecting coastline cities?

What materials are equipped to withstand hurricane weather forces?

How have hurricanes in the past century changed over the years (size, wind speed, speed, origin).

List what needs to be done

Research must be done to answer individual unknown questions and share ideas with my teammates.

Research online databases, ask questions to teammates

My team will share their ideas and thoughts in order to create a team problem statement, to conduct further research to support our problem statement.

Develop a problem statement

Hurricanes are natural disasters that are presented every year; they cause catastrophic disaster to the area they approach. By using today’s weather technology and resources, how can we help in the prevention of major damage to cities and regions before a hurricane landfall.

Gather information

As a team we will gather, organize and analyze information based on our teams problem statement. We will exchange thoughts, hunches, and reflection on each other’s problem statement, and the teams problem statement and questions. All gathered information would be presented in our team’s wiki page.

Present findings

As a team we will present our individual work and our team information (problem statement) through our team wiki page.

Personal Reflection: After reading the scenario on Galveston Hurricane of the 1900’s, it helps me realize that hurricanes are a powerful force of nature that cannot be controlled. All that we can do is prevent for the worst-case scenario when a hurricane makes landfall. After analyzing this scenario, I realized that a PBL model is very engaging it helps a person to understand and learn a certain topic more thoroughly, by listing great resources to help comprehend the scenario in a better way.

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