Hurricane Matthew and Haiti’s Devastating October Hurricanes – Exporing a Potential New Correlation


As of October 2, 2016, Hurricane Matthew is poised to impact the vulnerable and disaster-prone nation of Haiti, targeting the island nation with the most dangerous north-east quadrant of its 140 mile-per-hour Category 4 winds. October hurricanes, when they have occurred in Haiti over the past decade, have caused tremendous disaster impacts. In October of 2012, Haiti’s agricultural sector was decimated by Hurricane Sandy. In October 2007, Hurricane Noel was the second wettest tropical cyclone on record in Haiti causing massive flooding and mudslides.

2012, 2007, and 2016. Sound familiar? These years also represent the very worst years of peak Arctic sea ice melt extent in terms of area in square kilometers at peak melt point. Is it possible that there could be a potential teleconnection between the worst-of-the worst of Arctic sea ice melt years and Haiti’s October Hurricanes?

To explore this hypothesis, ReliefAnalysis analyzed a period of record of 12 years of peak Arctic melt seasons with data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center to confirm Arctic sea ice minimum melt extent since 2005. The results were then sorted into clusters of Severity Categories to include “Worst” representing the 2012/2007/2016 minimums, “Strong,” “Medium,” and “Less Severe” to determine a spectrum of values within this spectrum of accelerating sea ice loss.


From there, 21 named storms that have affected since Haiti were analyzed in chronological order, with primary data from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters and Weather Underground. Key data elements were Haiti impact date, Cyclone name, maximum Category on the Saffir-Simpson Scale,  and “Number Affected” – a proxy for impact given that damage and fatality figures for Haiti have some historical data challenges. Then, these 21 named storms were cross referenced against the key elements of Arctic sea ice patterns…did the storm occur after peak Arctic Melt Season for that year–which also occurs about half way through the most active peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season. In addition, did that particular storm occur in a “Worst,” “Strong,” “Medium,” or “Least Severe” sea ice loss category. Any storms that occurred after peak melt season are highlighted in yellow.

Haiti Hurricane Impacts.JPG

The period of record chosen was intentional. Haiti has a very long, and devastating history of hurricane impacts. The 12 year period of record is short enough that it can represent some granularity and separation with our recent experience with Arctic amplification and allow for some nuanced sea ice extent categories. (Sea ice extent was chosen as the variable;, had thickness data been available, 2016 may well have been the “Worst” year.) Expanding the record too far would simply have clustered the last decade of the sea ice loss spiral into a less useful composite category. At the same time, the record was expanded to include the hyperactive 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season, when the storm naming convention used Greek letters well into December, and before sea ice extent began to plunge below 5 million square kilometers consistently.

The numbers show us that looking at “Number Affected” being greater than 100,000 people as a proxy for major hurricane impact, only Noel and Sandy had tremendous impacts, and occurred post-peak melt season (in fact in October). Noel (2007) and Sandy (2012), fell in the “Worst” category of recent Arctic sea ice loss years.

2010’s Tropical Storm Matthew and Hurricane Tomas occurred during a very dangerous Atlantic Hurricane Season with hundreds of thousands displaced in the wake of the Port-au-Prince Earthquake. Their significant but relatively less severe impacts occurred post-peak melt season and were in the “Strong” category of sea ice loss. Hurricane Ike, in 2008, had a very significant impact on Haiti, but occurred pre-melt season peak and in the heart of the Atlantic Hurricane Season’s active window.

Looking deeper into Haiti’s deeper hurricane history, post melt-season peak devastating Haiti hurricanes do occur, and significantly so. Here are six examples between 1935-2004–a 69 year period of record averaging a return frequency of 11.5 years:

  • Hurricane Jeanne impacted Haiti on September 17, 2004 and claimed 3,000 lives.
  • Hurricane Flora made a Category 4 impact on Haiti October 3, 1963 and caused 8,000 fatalities.
  • An unnamed storm in 1935 claimed over 2,000 lives during a mid-October impact.
  • Hurricane Hazel impacted Haiti as a Category 3 storm in mid-October 1954, claiming 1,000 lives.
  • Hurricane Gordon’s November 1994 impact claimed 1,000 lives.
  • In 1998, Hurricane Georges caused a major agricultural disaster and also claimed 400 lives, while making an impact on September 21.


Haiti has a long history of devastating hurricane impacts. From 1935-2004, six such disasters occurred after the peak melt Arctic sea ice loss, before our current era of increasing Arctic amplification. These events occurred on average once every 11.5 years.

Since 2005 (a much shorter period of record of 12 years), we have been 3 for 3 in terms correlating years of very significant sea ice loss, to a strong October Haiti hurricane impacts–with Matthew’s current approach included. The return frequency for this smaller period of record is once every 4 years.

Of course, this is not a meteorological analysis by any means–merely an overlay of patterns and humanitarian impacts. But certainly a humanitarian trend worth continuing to evaluate in future years as Arctic amplification continues.


Programming Note: I have had the honor of finishing up the audio of a discussion with Brad Baldilla, a prominent activist in the Asian American and Filipino American community who is very involved in Business Process Outsourcing–one of the increasingly prominent trends in globalization and international labor markets. The implications are significant, and I look forward to sharing to kick off the fall series of ReliefAnalysis podcasts shortly.

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Global Linchpin: Brazil’s Tenuous Water Supply Chains


If the Earth’s entire fresh water supply were parceled out into drinking glasses, one out of every five of those glasses would be Brazilian in origin. Yet despite being the steward of20% of the Earth’s freshwater supply, Brazil is “very thirsty” according to a new World Bank report.

Poor water supply infrastructures are creating major geographic disparities–with a disproportional impact on impoverished areas and populations. Explosive urbanization is creating water shortages in areas such as San Paolo, and the World Bank predicts that shortages throughout the country may increase significantly in the coming years and decades.

The pressures on Brazil’s tenuous water supply chain are increasing. The demands of being the world’s second largest food exporter, responsible for 10% of the global corn supply, have locked up over 70% of the water supply in irrigation. Industries such as raw mineral extraction such as aluminum are creating polluting feedback loops and contaminating the water cycle. 60% of the country’s energy origininates from hydropower. And population growth symbolizzed the rise of gargantuan megacities like Rio create an exponential complexity in the types of water supply infrastructure that must be developed to quench the thirst.

Then there is the precious Amazon Basin, which is facing severe deforestation and threatens to relinquish its status as a net global carbon sink. Compound this with the fires, floods, and droughts wrought by climate change, and an anvil of multiple stressors is dropping on an already sickly water supply system.

For the entire global community, the well being of one fifth of the planet’s freshwater and a major contributor to global food security dependens on how Brazil’s water supply chains can handle unprecedented stress going forward.

[Image: Record low San Paolo water reserves in 2014 via telesurtv]


Programming Note: I’m looking forward to sharing a new lineup of fall podcasts with you in the coming months! Next week, I hope to announce who our September guest will be.

The ReliefAnalysis site will have new components coming too–with sections on “The Geography of Disruption” and “Humanitarian Evolution” being developed which are becoming the core of the ReliefAnalysis vision and mission.

A new detailed blogroll is under development as well. David Korn, who has coached me with his extremely effective and transformational heuristical style, is featured in the beta version of this page. David’s superb strategic and tactical advice results in processes that deliver tangible and measurable tactical outcomes; they have been vital to the relaunch of ReliefAnalysis. Check out his site and/or contact me  anytime for more. Soon to follow on the detailed blogroll page, the great guests in Episodes 1-8, key cross-post partners, and more.





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Louisiana: 30,000+ Rescues

USNG Rescue

There were no winds, no storm surge. No pre-disaster emergency declaration of a named Atlantic Hurricane, and no pre-landfall mass sheltering operations. And yet, as the scale of Louisiana’s multi-day flood becomes more clear, what happened in Baton Rouge and beyond was far more than a rain bomb–it was a mega disaster-scale weapon of mass destruction.

Current media reports state the number of rescues at 30,000. It is certain that this number will rise, or flux, and will likely be never truly known.

For context, the US Coast Guard rescued 33,500 people in Hurricane Katrina, which is the benchmark mega-disaster for Louisiana and likely for the US as a whole. When other swiftwater rescue assets and out-of-state Urban Search and Rescue teams are accounted for, this number from 2005 was likely higher–some estimate it was “thousands” more. But note that there is not an exponential separation between Katrina rescues and the current flood devastation; in fact these numbers are very much in the same ballpark.

This week’s flooding was not a complex, coastal Category 4 storm–this was a relatively under-predicted, monsoonal rain type event, and the scale of rescues in general is close enough to Katrina demonstrate that one of the largest mega-disasters in American history just fell from the sky over the past week.

[Image: Louisiana NG]

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Processing the Distress of the Present Moment

For many of us, if not the vast majority of us, experiencing exponential change with a mind wired for linear processing can be exceptionally disorienting. “Is this the ‘new normal’?” people often ask after yet another mass shooting, act of police brutality, unthinkable election development, or abrupt climate-driven disaster.

We anticipate a looming mass change in consciousness, a psychological tipping point on the horizon, but the next non-linear event seems to erratically toss us into the uncharted waters of our own minds. We struggle to come up for air and process what just happened, until the next explosive typhoon or failed coup flings our consciousness into a new state of  upside-down discomfort.

In a deeply insightful and heartfelt interview with ReliefAnalysis, Lisa White, the creator of the  Walk In the Mud website, offers a lens to begin to process that alien landscape where disorientation and tipping points share an uneasy coexistence. Ms. White describes the spiritual field of Archetypal Astrology, its interconnection to the work of Carl Jung, and an inner and outer cosmology to help put into context current social tensions, worldwide institutions under duress, and what the symbols of blue Arctic Oceans and sine wave-like jet streams may be triggering in our collective unconscious.

Ms. White conveys a message of self-care to the global humanitarian and climate change community, and a need for all of us to “find our center” and get in touch with our triggers. This will help us to be better listeners, communicators, and supporters. In Lisa’s opinion, as climate change continues its rapid acceleration, many of today’s global “optimists” will soon be processing the disorientation that so many of us feel today. Their distress and despair will benefit from the support from us; we can supply that healing support on our own centeredness in this uneasy present moment.

Follow Lisa White on her excellent blog and on SoundCloud.


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Turkey’s Coup Attempt: Empty Set

Empty Set

In the immediate aftermath of Turkey’s attempt coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the outstanding journalist and Turkey analyst for the Huffington Post and Al Arabiya, Mahir Zeynalov, expressed this sentiment:

As Turkey, the region and international community resolves to a state of uneasy entropy after being hurled into an unfamiliar terrain on an exponential landscape, this honest question and self reflection is a breath of fresh air. From the present moment’s place of relative stability (relative, at least, to the last 48 hours), many journalists, analysts, and Turkey/Middle East watchers are attempting to reverse-engineer a narrative of how we got here, and beginning to think about the path forward based on the paradigm of where we just were, as recently as July 14, 2016.

But this is hardly a familiar world, and old paradigms are useless. Long gone are the days where a solution of expanded human rights for Turkey’s Kurdish population could be offered for integration deeper Turkish integration the European Union. Back in the “good old days,” anyone who would have postulated that the  UK would abandon the EU, Syria would implode, NATO would square off in a quagmire of proxy armies, and an entity worse than the Taliban would dominate international headlines would have likely received an “F” in an academic setting, or a reassignment of desk duties in the profession of international relations and security.

With a hat tip to Paul Beckwith‘s analogies with our new climate state – when a number is divided by zero, the solution is Empty Set. We have now a Turkey that is emerges from a very complex internal struggle with its ruling authority more firmly in control than ever…or so it would seem. As of July 17, 2016, we also have tensions apparently very high at Incirlik Airforce base, with the arrest of base commander General Bekir Ercan Van. Incirlik is the hub of Turkish-US-NATO operations against Islamic State in Syria and central node of an extraordinarily tenuous patchwork of geopolitical tensions and that tie back ethnic proxies back to nuclear superpowers. Incirlik is a hub that monitors refugee outflows unparalleled in world history. And, of note,…Incirlik Air Force base has US nuclear weapons stored there.

In the hours, days, and weeks ahead, truly making sense of Turkey’s coup requires starting from a place of Empty Set, finding center on a new geopolitical and psychological landscape, and rebuilding our worldviews of “why” and “what now” by trying to avoid simple reductionism about how things were 10 years ago, or 10 days ago.

In Turkey, we begin in a place of Empty Set. Mr. Zeynalov’s question rings true after we careened to a new space less than two days ago. “What the hell was all that?”


Programming Note: I’m very excited to be very shortly interviewing Lisa White for podcast Episode 8. Her perspectives on the psychological and spiritual aspects of what is unfolding rapidly are must reads and must listens. Look forward to sharing that shortly.



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Humanitarians, transform the archetype of what we stand for

In a recent podcast episode, when I asked the deeply admirable activist Kevin Hester what is the one message to convey to the global humanitarian community, he responded, “First, I would ask them to tell the bloody truth.” Indeed.

Far too often, humanitarian organizations worldwide are completely invisible to their own privilege, espousing a desire to help others, but basking in ignorance of their own internal orientations–racial, class, geopoltical, religious, gender…every category that ultimately divides us.

Case and point: the criticism years ago of Erykah Badu’s African travels was really about the arrogant tirades of unaware and privileged humanitarian organizations with collectively immature egos, unable to see the forest through the trees of an unparalleled musician, artist, philanthropist, and activist in her native Dallas.

For humanitarians, it’s time to wake up. Time to get better. Far better.

Erykha Badu’s career of artistic expression has painted more of the human soul’s map than the vast majority of human beings will be able to achieve in multiple lifetimes. Her music, art, philanthropy and activism in Dallas and far beyond is a symbol of the very best archetype of humanitarianism we have. Her legacy is an archetypal symbol of transformation we desperately  need to transform our cognitive definition of what the very word “humanitariansim” means.

Kevin Hester is right…humanitarians, tell the bloody truth. And please, don’t speak if you don’t listen, very deeply, first.

Watch, and listen (posted Feb 29, 2016):

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The Food System’s Invisible Workforce


When we discuss the fragility of the global food system, we often focus on stressors such as a rapidly changing climate and a petroleum-dependent supply chain.

But, as Leanne Simon, the Executive Director of the organization Zomppa vividly describes, there is also a deeply troubling human element to our food system–an exploited “invisible workforce” toiling in third world conditions while residing in first world countries, such as the United States.

Hidden in farm fields, not too far off the beaten paths of rural country roads, large migrant food labor camps can be found sprawling within areas such as the rural southeastern US. Searing heat, overcrowding, squalid conditions, injuries, illness, rats, spiders, and snakes are only some of dangers hundreds of thousands of these migrants must endure each growing season. And, as Ms. Simon tells ReliefAnalysis in her personal and insightful interview, without this massive but hidden workforce, fruits, vegetables, and meats would not exist in small groceries or massive supermarkets alike.

Ms. Simon recounts how her passion for social justice within the food system was shaped by her own childhood experiences, her personal battles with food insecurity as a young adult, her pathway to her grassroots advocacy and chilling fieldwork in the United States, and her future disaster recovery work in post-Cyclone Winston Fiji.

Similar in tone to our Episode 5 interview with Robert Young Pelton, Ms. Simon notes that “building a wall” and eliminating the contributions of migrants would be “preposterous” and cause an all-out collapse of the entire food system. Instead, Ms. Simon approaches the issue with a genuine spirit of social advocacy, dignity, and humanitarianism, with an intention to greatly improve the lives of those who comprise the base of a deeply flawed supply chain.

Connect with Leanne and, and her website, Her tab “Labor Camps” have powerful images of the fieldwork she describes in the interview.

Also in this episode: Jatin Singh is CEO of SkyMet–India’s first private weather forecasting company. He is the our special guest for our Situational Awareness segment and describes how abrupt climate change is severely impacting the Indian Subcontinent. Passionate and broad in scope, Mr. Singh describes the disappearance of India’s distinct seasons, how climate change has turbocharged El Nino-fueled droughts, the tragedy of 300,000 farmer suicides over the last 17 years, the potential future of insurgent movements, and–as much as he hates to say it—his strong feeling that water must be commoditized. He also expresses great concerns for the future of the entire planet if India rapidly industrializes to China’s level.

[Special Note – deep appreciation to Ms. Simon, who jointed the interview from Brisbane, Australia on her Rotary Fellowship, Belinda Chiu of Zomppa, and Mr. Singh, who was interviewed from New Delhi, India. Our interview also references our dynamic Episode 4 discussion with the brilliant Kevin Hester, where we discussed the prospects of food and supply chain collapse. Image courtesy of Leanne Simon from her agricultural advocacy field work.]

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