The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters

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Overview

The awesome power of the earth’s oceans has been in the headlines in recent years, from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami (300,000 dead) to the devastation of New Orleans caused by the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, to the huge rogue waves that have struck oil tankers and cruise ships. Bruce Parker, former Chief Scientist for the National Ocean Service, tells these stories as he explores the history of our struggle to understand the physics of the sea so we can predict when it will unleash its power against us. ...

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The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters

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Overview

The awesome power of the earth’s oceans has been in the headlines in recent years, from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami (300,000 dead) to the devastation of New Orleans caused by the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, to the huge rogue waves that have struck oil tankers and cruise ships. Bruce Parker, former Chief Scientist for the National Ocean Service, tells these stories as he explores the history of our struggle to understand the physics of the sea so we can predict when it will unleash its power against us. His wide-sweeping narrative interweaves exciting stories of unpredicted natural disasters with fascinating stories of scientific discovery, including:

* Napoleon’s realization about Moses and the Exodus after his own narrow escape from the dangerous tides of the Red Sea;

* the critical role that tide predictions and wave forecasts played in the Allied victory on D-Day;

* how the deadly storm surge that killed half a million people in Bangladesh in 1970 led to that nation’s fight for independence;

* how the largest tsunami in recorded carried three fishing boats from a bay in Alaska into the Pacific Ocean—and the father and son who survived to tell the tale;

* how a ten-year-old English girl saved dozens of people during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and why elephants were able to save so many lives;

* how the sea affects El Niños and climate change, and whether sea level rise due to global warming will put our coasts underwater;

* how today’s scientists are working to predict the sea’s next disaster using a vast global array of oceanographic sensors—on buoys, on ships, on islands, along coasts, and on satellites —to provide the huge quantities of real-time data needed by computer prediction models.

This richly textured narrative, with its sweeping look at more than 1,000 years of ocean history and science, will captivate readers even beyond those already interested in the ocean, naval history, marine science, or the environment.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this educational account, professor (at the Stevens Institute of New Jersey) and scientist Parker examines the violent impact of the seas on human society, and our long struggle to understand them. Parker begins with an exploration of tidal forces and their role in major historical events, from the parting of the Red Sea to D-Day. He moves on to hurricanes, rogue waves, and tsunamis, ending with the catastrophic 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and following tsunamis that killed more than 225,000 people. As Parker describes these sea-spawned disasters, he also documents the slow growth of scientific knowledge that gives us a chance to predict and prepare for them. Parker is more scholar than storyteller, and at times he loses the drama of his subject. Long discussions of such topics as "Laplace tidal equations" and "geophysical fluid dynamics" give the sense of a first-year lecture on oceanography. Nevertheless, any reader with an interest in the subject will appreciate Parker's expertise. Parker is optimistic about our ability to manage the dangers of the seas, but as the events of 2004 demonstrated, in spite of all we've learned, they still have the power to render us helpless. (Nov.)
Library Journal
As the National Ocean Service's chief scientist, oceanographer Parker focused on ocean modeling and forecasting. Here, he covers storm surges, rogue waves, and tsunamis. Historical and modern examples are interwoven to add interest—Napoléon at the Red Sea, World War II beach assaults, the rogue wave that threatened the Queen Mary, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, plus minor coverage of 2005's Hurricane Katrina. The final chapter on El Niño, global observation, and prediction models to save lives and property reinforces the need for data, modeling, and sharing. Craig B. Smith's Extreme Waves includes more information on rogues, and John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein's Path of Destruction, on Katrina, has a major emphasis on the politics involved. Parker explains the science in context and politics only in terms of data sharing to get the information to the public. The book would have benefited from a glossary, so specific topic chapters could be read independently, and it needs more maps. VERDICT This is an interesting review of the topic, with extensive footnotes. Science fans will find it of value.—Jean E. Crampon, Univ. of Southern California Science and Engineering Lib., Los Angeles
Kirkus Reviews

An appealing overview of sea movements.

Former National Ocean Service chief scientist Parker begins with the familiar: tides, which turn out to be more complicated than readers may have learned in high school. Lunar gravity pulls the ocean, but so does the sun, plus a contribution from the centrifugal force of the earth's rotation and another from the tilt of its axis. Gravity powers tides, but geography and weather determine how high they rise. This varies from almost no tides in the Mediterranean to more than 50 feet around the Bay of Fundy in eastern Canada. The author then moves on to a discussion of more violent movements—when a river narrows as it approaches the sea, incoming tide is compressed and amplified, often producing a "tidal bore," a destructive wave that races upstream twice a day. Parker devotes the most attention to tsunamis, which are produced by undersea earthquakes or landslides, but similar phenomena, storm surges, occur more often. Winds from tropical and nontropical cyclones can push an immense wall of water across the shore. Surges produced the 1900 Galveston and 2005 New Orleans catastrophes, but these were modest compared with those in the Bay of Bengal, which have killed hundreds of thousands. Surges, not tsunamis or heavy rains, undoubtedly gave rise to flood myths present in almost all cultures. Parker mixes hair-raising descriptions of disasters with efforts to understand them, followed by advances, mostly since 1800, in predicting sea movements, a complex process that today involves satellites, supercomputers and worldwide warning networks.

Focusing on water alone—leaving marine life to Rachel Carson and others—the author provides a lucid, original contribution to popular-science writing.

From the Publisher
“Mixes hair-raising descriptions of disasters with efforts to understand them... the author provides a lucid, original contribution to popular-science writing.”  – Kirkus Reviews

 

“... prediction is the focal point of Parker’s narrative, and a lively, story-driven one it is. ... Riveting readers with analyses of catastrophes such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Parker delivers science in dramatic and digestible form.” – Booklist

 

“Anyone who appreciates the fact that the sea remains something we cannot control will love this book from Bruce Parker.  You will come away with a better understanding of why the sea will leave us in awe till the end of time.” – Jim Cantore, The Weather Channel

 

“I suggest you read The Power of the Sea, a fascinating exploration of the subject by Bruce Parker” – Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth blog, The New York Times

 

“Bruce Parker's The Power of the Sea is an engaging and essential history of science.  It’s also a terrific account of survival on our wild blue planet.” – David Helvarg, author of Saved by the Sea: A Love Story with Fish   

 

The Power of the Sea presents the destructive nature of ocean waves in human terms.  For me, the power of the Power of the Sea lies in the compelling personal stories that make the book immensely readable.  From Napoleon's near death encounter with a raging Red Sea tide, to the vital importance of predicting tide and swell before the D-Day landings, to the individual acts of heroism during the tragic 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, to the epic storm surges that continue to flood Bangladesh and Myanmar today, Parker never loses sight of the uneasy alliance between man and sea.  All who ply or live near the sea should read this book.  Be warned, you may never look at the ocean the same way again.” – John Kretschmer, columnist for Sailing magazine and author of At The Mercy of the Sea

 

“Rarely does a book written by a practicing scientist grab you like this one.  Intelligent, accurate, and accessible , ... read Bruce Parker’s wonderful book.” – Richard Ellis, author of The Empty Ocean and Tuna: Love, Death, and Mercury

 

“The Power of the Sea is the best book I have ever read about tsunamis, storm surges, or rogue waves.  It dramatically demonstrates the need to better understand the awesome power of the sea if we are to save lives and property.” – Jerry Schubel, President, Aquarium of the Pacific

 

"richly researched, eloquent ... a must-read for anyone interested in the environment.  The power of the sea is palpable in Dr. Parker’s treatment of a fascinating diversity of historically significant events.” – Richard Spinrad, Vice President for Research, Oregon State University

 

“Bruce Parker has blended history and science into a book that clearly and often dramatically explains how and why the sea will affect their lives – now and in the future. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever been awed by the ocean.” – Dan Basta, Director, NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

 

“This is an engaging book filled with details and little-known facts that have been skillfully compiled and woven into interesting stories... entertaining while at the same time providing a wealth of information in an interesting manner. ... very worthwhile and rewarding to read. .... I heartily recommend this book to all who are interested in the sea and some of the secrets that it holds.” –  Charlie Finkl, Journal of Coastal Research

 

his presentation of the human race’s history of trying to unravel the mysteries of exactly what makes our oceans tick is, by turns, fascinating, enlightening, and sometimes pretty scary.  Besides providing stark examples of the vicissitudes of the sea, which throws tsunamis and rogue waves at both sailors and land dwellers, Parker devotes much space to our attempts to predict its watery demeanour.  The text is heavily footnoted, as befits a scientist and lecturer, but it never really departs the realm of readability, even when discussing global warming, El Niño, and weather predictions.” – Martin Dunphy, The Georgia Straight [Straight.com]

 

“fascinating reading. ... the best aspect of The Power of the Sea ... is reserved for the two chapters Parker uses to detail the earthquake and resulting tsunami on December 26, 2004 in the Indian Ocean, which resulted in the loss of nearly 300,000 lives and whose effects were felt around the world.  Vividly recreated, it is both amazing and heart wrenching. ...  As the resulting tsunami traveled through the Indian Ocean, Parker graphically describes the effects.  It makes for some difficult reading. ... The Power of the Sea is an accessible, entertaining, harrowing examination of some of the most powerful forces in nature.  Parker writes in manner that makes the complex science of the oceans easily understood by everyone.  He includes many anecdotes, livening up the text, which drive his points home.  This is an excellent book for anyone  interested in the oceans, looking for an understanding of tsunamis, storm surges, tides, and more.”  – Gregg Eldred,  Planet Lotus

 

“A compelling portrayal of the awesome destruction that the sea can unleash, The Power of the Sea explains what mankind has learned from such disasters, and how we can reduce the loss of life in the future.” – WindCheck  magazine

 

"A vivid portrayal of sea disasters and the important role that the ocean has played in so many historic events.  An illuminating scientific look at how we have learned to predict such disasters and what still needs to be done to safe guard us from future global calamities.” – Curtis Ebbesmeyer, author of Flotsametrics and the Floating World

 

“Whether you love history, science or just want to know how the world shapes our lives, this is both an informative and enjoyable read.” – Margaret Davidson, Director, NOAA Coastal Services Center

 

“any reader with an interest in the subject will appreciate Parker's expertise.” – Publishers Weekly

 

“Recommended.” –  Choice

 

“Great on historical detail.”  Geographical magazine

"Parker's integration of theory with vivid descriptions of historical events sets this book in a class of its own ....  I highly recommend 'The Power of the Sea' .... Whether you’re a sailor, scientist, or history buff, there is something for everyone in this book" ? Brian Shiro, Earth magazine

 

"This is a fascinating book from a scientist who appreciates history and uses human stories to breathe life into his study.  He had me at the introduction, 'When the Sea Turns Against Us'." ? Timothy J. Runyan, Sea History magazine

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230616370
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Series: MacSci Series
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 9.82 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Parker is a world recognized expert in the oceans. He is former Chief Scientist of the National Ocean Service in NOAA and presently Visiting Professor at the Center for Maritime Systems at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.  He has a Ph.D. in physical oceanography from The Johns Hopkins University.  Among his awards are the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal and the Commodore Cooper Medal from the International Hydrographic Organization. He lives in Virginia.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures

Introduction: When the Sea Turns against Us

Escaping the Sea's Fury through Prediction 1

1 The Earliest Predictions for the Sea

The Tide 7

2 The Moon, the Sun, and the Sea

The Tide Predictions for D-Day 7

3 The Sea's Greatest Killer

Predicting Storm Surges 53

4 Defending Our Coasts

Flooded Cities 75

5 Stormy Seas

Predicting Sea, Swell, and Surf 97

6 "Holes" in the Surface of the Sea

Rogue Waves 117

7 The Sea's Response to an Unpredictable Earth

Trying to Predict Tsunamis 133

8 December 26, 2004(Part 1)

Tragic Surprise in the Indian Ocean 161

9 December 26, 2004 (Part 2)

Learning from a Tragedy 181

10 Predicting the Future---and Saving Lives

El Nino, Climate Change, and the Global Ocean Observing System 203

Acknowledgements 219

About the Author 223

Notes 225

Index 285

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2010

    Highly Recommended- Grabs your Attention and Captures your Interest

    Thus is a fascinating and compelling book for anyone with an inquisitive mind. Bruce Parker recounts historic events involving the sea poignantly as the blueprints for understanding the past and forecasting our future.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    I was thoroughly engrossed with the information in this book. P

    I was thoroughly engrossed with the information in this book. People, who live near the coast, are not aware of the potential danger that the sea poses. I would highly recommend this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

    STORMLAN TERRITORY

    Stay out tresspassers. - streakstar

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2012

    Deathlightclan

    Scent markers

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 14, 2013

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    Posted March 22, 2011

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    Posted June 9, 2012

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    Posted May 26, 2011

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