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November-December 2010

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From the Editor

As I write this, many in the country are commemorating the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, in August 2005. While the city has made great strides in its recovery, much remains to be done. One of the most important aspects of recovery is also one of the most difficult: preparing for the possibility that a similarly devastating event could occur again, possibly in the near future. Hospitals are one of the many organizations that have been forced to take a hard look at their preparedness plans and look for ways to prevent the problems that stymied successful evacuation of care facilities. One extreme example took place at the Memorial Medical Center. In the post-storm mayhem, two nurses and one doctor were accused of administering “lethal cocktails” to four patients who were suffering in the flooded-out, sweltering hospital after the August 2005 storm.

Of course, hurricanes are not the only threats to hospitals, and New Orleans is not the only city where care facilities have been threatened by severe weather. In his article, “A Plan for All Seasons: Helping Hospitals Prepare for Extreme Weather,” Jack Williams examines how some hospitals have coped when severe weather struck, and how NOAA and other organizations are helping to make sure hospitals are not caught by surprise in the future. Although the memories of Katrina are sobering, the lessons learned are invaluable for future generations.

If Katrina taught us one lesson, it is that weather is serious business. For traders in weather futures, it literally is serious business. In “Hedging Your Weather Bets: The Science of “Weather Futures” Trading,” Weatherwise Contributing Editor Randy Cerveny takes a look at the financial markets that deal in weather risk. For most people, good weather is an added bonus to the day. For the folks whose livelihoods depend on good weather, predicting risk is no joke, and in these economic times, knowing a good investment when you see one is key.

Of course, for those who make it their duty to study local weather every day, betting on Mother Nature might seem like a foolish endeavor. As Nolan Doesken and Henry Reges note in their article, “The Value of the Citizen Weather Observer,” the dedicated weather observers at CoCoRaHs and the National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer program provide an invaluable service for meteorologists trying to get an accurate picture of climate in any given region. Without their constant flow of data, the weather futures market would doubtless be even more unpredictable than it is now.

Finally, it seems appropriate that, for the final issue of the year, we would feature a region whose final season of the year provides such a spectacular show of color. In the latest installment in the “Climate and Weather of the 50 States” series, Brandon Butcher and Mike Mogil profile “The Weather and Climate of Southern New England,” where the difficulty of cold winters is mitigated somewhat by the beauty that precedes them each year in the riot of fall colors. From blizzards to hurricanes to crisp fall days, this region has it all, and I hope you enjoy your brief visit there in the pages of Weatherwise.

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