Rapid Intensification

The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.

— Leo Tolstoy

In the August heat, Jennifer and I drove down the Western Shore of the Chesapeake, randomly looking at properties along the water, stopping for fried pickles and steamed shrimp at the Rumor Reel, a local’s marina in Pasadena, Maryland.

Nearby, down a charming, single-lane country road, we happened upon a house for sale for $1.2 million. It sits on three-quarters of an acre. What makes it interesting — and pricey — is the location. To the east the land sports a dock directly on the Chesapeake Bay. To the west lies another dock on a large inland lake, great for fishing and kayaking.

The house itself is a dump. Given your budget, you’d raze the sad, forgotten structure and build a new one. What’s there now hasn’t been updated in probably 50 years.

On the pond side, there’s a three-car garage that would be perfect for a loft for visitors… or a bungalow in which to type words while the sun sets.

Later in the day, when we showed a picture of the property to our 20-year-old son, Augie, the first words out of his mouth were: “Dad, why? That place will be underwater in 10 years.”

Heh. He’s not wrong. Somehow kids get stuff intuitively that takes a blunt strike to the cabeza for their elders to grasp…

The Chesapeake doesn’t often get direct hits from hurricanes. The last one, Isabel, whipped up the bay in September 2003. The storm surge alone reached 8 feet.

That would be enough to soak our little abode up to the second floor.

Looking at storm data going back to 1950, the Chesapeake gets several tropical storms a year with surges between 2-5 feet. Again, enough to flood the bungalow. Flood insurance alone will give you pause for owning and building on the land. There’s new construction on either piece of the plot with 10-to-12-foot stilts.

Recently, Hurricane Idalia made landfall as a Category 3 in the Big Bend region of Florida. The storm surge it brought with it peaked at 16 feet. A surge like that would drown our sad shack along the Chesapeake. It would be completely underwater.

Idalia, since we’re on the subject, experienced what meteorologists call “rapid intensification” defined as an increase of at least 35 mph within a 24-hour period. Tuesday morning, Idalia was a Category 1 hurricane with 75-mph sustained winds. By Wednesday, less than 24 hours later, it was a “monstrous” Category 4 with sustained winds of 130 mph.

The cause? This year, the average surface level of the Gulf is 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal — more than 1 degree higher than the previous record. As far as my armchair meteorological knowledge goes, warmer water helps storms intensify faster because it evaporates faster and rises more quickly. The more evaporating water rises, then cools when it hits the atmosphere, the more quickly it fuels a nascent storm.

Even after the storm began to weaken to a Cat 3, the storm surge was already barreling toward Keaton Beach, where the eye landed on August 30.

It’s worth me making a short public service announcement here. Yes, I am dipping my toe in the hot water of the climate “debate.” Anyone who follows climate politics knows it’s not really a debate at all. As far as the United Nations is concerned, “global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer” became a prominent issue in 1988.

Since that time, “global warming,” which didn’t work very well as a marketing term, morphed into the all-encompassing, and somehow more acceptable, brand “climate change.” You won’t find a news report about Idalia on CNN, Fox, The New York Times, or any other mainstream source that doesn’t blame her rapid intensification, with mind-numbing lackadaisy, on climate change.

Could El Niño be causing rising surface-level temperatures in the Gulf?

Maybe it’s due to a natural cycle. It doesn’t matter… “climate change” is a useful term for journalists telling a story because it allows them to fill a gap in their research they know most people will just accept.

Maybe I’m cynical. But anytime there’s such widespread acceptance of a term like that it makes me go “hmmm.”

I’ve been fascinated by the topic since accompanying my friend John Englander, CEO of the Rising Seas Institute, to Greenland last year to see melting glaciers with my own two baby blues. They are, in fact, melting. You can see the evidence scraped along the fjords where the existing glaciers have receded.

The trip to look at glaciers and giant icebergs makes for a fun cultural excursion, as well as a scientifically educational one. The town where we camped is Illusiat, Greenland, home to the Inuit and generations of Vikings. To get there you have to spend some time in either Copenhagen, Denmark, or Reykjavik, Iceland. It’s a tad pricey, but I recommend it should you be looking for a mid-summer getaway in 2024.

But you don’t need to go that far.

Across the Chesapeake from our ramshackle hut lies Smith Island. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the melting glaciers and loss of ice from Greenland ice sheets have contributed to the rapid sea-level rise in the Chesapeake.

The bay has swallowed 3,300 acres of Smith Island since records started being kept in the 1800s. There remain only 900 acres of habitable land on the island. Ironically, prices for said land have been increasing and flood insurance is still available.

We’re expecting a friendly round of reader mail on the subject. Just using the words “climate change” is akin to yanking a two-foot, bald-faced wasp nest out of a Japanese maple tree with your bare hands. (Yeah, we had one in our backyard until yesterday. We didn’t use our hands, but the metaphor fits.)

Our friend John Englander has made it a life mission to educate people on the economic impacts of rising sea levels, especially in communities like Annapolis, MD. According to the Maryland state government, between 1957 and 1963, Annapolis averaged 4 “nuisance floods” a year. Between 2007 and 2013, that number had increased tenfold to nearly 40.

Sea level rise is a thing. Warmer water in the Gulf is a thing. Whether it’s naturally occurring or not, and what, if anything should be done about it, is where all the hand-wringing comes in.

To be sure, like tracking Consumer Price Index (CPI) or monthly jobless claims… no matter how tortured the stats are by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)… the data moves markets.

During COP26, in November of 2021, the former head of both the Bank of England and the Canadian central bank raised $130 trillion – that’s a ‘t’ – to enforce regulations for a Net-Zero 2050 agenda.

What could go wrong? Let’s find out.

Our goal in breaching “climate change” is simple. It’s a political lightning rod and is the cause of all kinds of shenanigans in the global markets, not least of which is massive, state-sponsored fraud. As such, we promise to keep our discussion focused on property, economics, and financial forecasting.

Mashi cho,

Addison Wiggin

This article was originally published on The Wiggin Sessions.

About the Author

Addison Wiggin is an American writer, publisher, and filmmaker. He has been covering the financial markets, the economy and politics for three decades. An acclaimed New York Times best-selling author, his books include: The Demise of the Dollar, just released in its 3rd Edition covering the dollar from the "bailouts to the pandemic and beyond. Mr. Wiggin is also the co-author, with Bill Bonner, of the best-sellers Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt. He wrote The Little Book of the Shrinking Dollar in the Wiley Little Book series. Addison is also the writer and executive producer of the documentary I.O.U.S.A., an exposé on the national debt, shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2008. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his family. Addison started his latest project, The Wiggin Sessions, powered by The Essential Investor, in March 2020. He films from a homegrown studio in his basement.

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