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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A tropical news update, and why we care

As we read, Tropical Cyclone Gonu is approaching the coast of Oman. It has sustained winds of 120 miles per hour, corresponding to a Category Three hurricane.* It is expected to hit at about 8 PM tonight (noon Eastern time, 9 AM Pacific time), which means that by the time I finish writing this, Oman will be in the midst of a hurricane. After hitting Oman, it will cross the Persian Gulf and hit southwestern Iran.

Why should we care about what happens half a world away? Well, according to this AP story, we should care for two reasons.** First:

The U.S. military said safety precautions were being taken in Oman but its personnel had not been ordered evacuated. Oman allows the U.S. to use four air bases in the sultanate for refueling, logistics and storage, though little has been revealed publicly about U.S.-Oman military ties.


But some oil analysts said the storm could have a damaging effect on the oil market.

Manouchehr Takin, an analyst at the Center for Global Energy Studies in London, said the real fear is that the loading of tankers might be delayed by the storm.

"About 17-21 million barrels a day of oil are coming out of the Persian Gulf. Even if only some of the tankers are delayed that could reduce the supply of oil and increase prices," Takin said.

Reality check: how many people will die as a result of this storm? Oman is a fairly wealthy country (GDP per capita = $14,000 in 2006), but as we learned, even the richest countries are vulnerable to catastrophic storms. How much damage will this cause to the Omani infrastructure and economy? Time will tell, but we're not likely to learn from the Associated Press.

Some people say the media is too conservative, some people say the media is too liberal, but if the media really does reflect us as a society, there's only one thing I can say:

We're all a bunch of self-centered brats.

*[didactic note]The category 1-5 classification system is only officially used in North Atlantic storms, but it's based only on wind speed, so it's easy to classify Indian Ocean cyclones on the same scale.[/didactic note]

**To be fair, I should quote the lede of the story: A cyclone expected to be the strongest storm ever recorded in the Arabian Peninsula churned toward the oil-rich Gulf on Tuesday, forcing thousands of residents of Oman's coastal towns to flee their homes. But, given the amount of words devoted to the other two points the article discussed, I think my point still holds. Also, notice the adjective describing the Persian Gulf in that sentence.***

***Also, as someone trained as a reporter, I should point out that it's probably easier to get quotable sources from the U.S. military and oil producers than to get quotes from the Omani-on-the-Street - and quotes are the driving force behind any story. But I get the sense that this reporter wasn't trying very hard to get other quotes.

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Blogger SARA said...

First off, I love how you make your little **anecdotal** remarks at the end. A nice format to your blog posts and makes responding more precise to the individual point.

We're sooo media brainwashed without sometimes thinking..I wonder how many people will read those articles and not even clue into the affect the hurricane will have on the people and leave with the thought "oil prices are going to increase!"
I'm certainly glad that we're not all a "bunch of self-centered brats" and you posted this to make people thinque!

**"oil-rich Gulf" : Yes, the media has done that to us..whenever we think of "the Gulf" our minds take us to "OIL"...sadly, those two words are forever embedded.

***perhaps the reporter wanted to get the story out quickly without time to get "real people quotes".

Tuesday, June 05, 2007 4:45:00 PM  

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