Forseeable for sure
George W. Bush yesterday morning on Good Morning America:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
As Echidne, Kevin Drum, and Matthew Yglesias point out, a lot of people were anticipating the breach of the levees. That's not all. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce released a study earlier this month predicting a 95-100% rise in the number of tropical storms this season.
In total, this season is likely to yield 18 to 21 tropical storms, with nine to 11 becoming hurricanes, including five to seven major hurricanes.
..."The tropics are only going to get busier as we enter the peak of the season," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, USAF (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service. "This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, and will be the ninth above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in the last eleven years."
It's not quite an August 6th memo, but Bush certainly should have known about the likelihood that intense hurricanes could hit New Orleans.
Of course, that information might not have made it through the Condi filter, since the unprecedented rise in high intensity tropical storms seems to be partially related to the rising water temperatures caused by global warming.
NOAA downplays this,
This confluence of optimal ocean and atmosphere conditions has been known to produce increased tropical storm activity in multi-decadal (approximately 20-30 year) cycles. Because of this, NOAA expects a continuation of above-normal seasons for another decade or perhaps longer. NOAA's research shows that this reoccurring cycle is the dominant climate factor that controls Atlantic hurricane activity. Any potentially weak signal associated with longer-term climate change appears to be a minor factor.
They don't cite to any study, though, and somehow I have a feeling that political considerations motivated that statement. A recent study published in Nature by Kerry Emmanuel, a climatologist at MIT, suggests that while there are natural reasons for the rise in frequency and intensity of hurricanes, global warming has compounded their effects. The Washington Post has more details on the scientific debate here.
If this is going to a problem for decades to come, I certainly hope the administration stops privatizing and undermining FEMA and cutting funding to levee building repair in the cities that need it.