Smithsonian Magazine published an interview with science reporter J. Madeleine Nash about her book, “Storm Warnings”.
Nash is asked to describe her most “thrilling weather experience”, and she replies:
“Two come to mind. One was stepping off the C-130 plane at the South Pole and walking into the tunnel that led to the old South Pole station. The air inside the tunnel was around minus 50 degrees, and it was like breathing in icicles. The other was flying through the eye of Hurricane Ivan as it headed across the Gulf towards Mobile, Alabama. I had been hoping to experience what’s known as the coliseum effect, with the clouds of the eye wall slanting back like the walls of an open-air stadium to reveal a bright blue sky. Instead, I entered an eerie fairyland filled with gray clouds that looked like turreted castles. Like many big hurricanes, Ivan was going through multiple cycles of building and rebuilding its eye wall, a process that caused its strength to wax, then wane. I’d expected to feel scared but, to my surprise, found that I wasn’t as the pilot expertly threaded the plane in and out. The pitch and yaw did make me feel a little woozy, and for that reason, I came to relish the moments of calm as we glided through the eye. We also had some moments of calm when we flew out ahead of Ivan, but down below us was a big ship dwarfed by gigantic waves. The pilot exclaimed, “Get out of there!” That was when I realized that flying through a hurricane was far preferable to experiencing one while out at sea or on land.”
Nash describes the history of her family’s run ins with powerful tornados and lightening strikes. Clarkson asks the “Storm Warnings” author and science reporter if she believes that global warming is influenced by humankind. Nash replies that the earth’s population does add up to a “geophysical force”, but she adds:
“When I look at the fierce debate now taking place over hurricanes and global warming, I am inclined to look at each side as a piece of a much larger puzzle. I don’t see the debate as framing an either-or choice; I see it as a rather different and much more important question. And that is, given that we’re now players in the climate system, how important are we? That’s the question that’s now been raised in relation to hurricanes, and it’s a question that I, for one, find extremely disturbing. We may luck out and change things only a little bit, or we may have extremely profound effects. I compare it to the sorcerer’s apprentice; that is, we’re tinkering with major forces that we haven’t a clue about how to control, and in our case there’s no big wizard coming home who’s going to bail us out.” [Emphasis mine]
Click here for more information about the author and Bryn Mawr alumnae J. Madeleine Nash.