Here’s an excerpt from my novel Ark Storm. My heroine, Dr Gwen Boudain, a big wave surfing meteorologist, is it attempting to explain the phenomena of Ark Storms and El Niño to two private equity investors:
Gwen eased out a silent breath, secured the agreements in her briefcase.
“You’re both familiar with the predictions that, sooner or later, an Atmospheric River Storm, known as an ARk Storm, is highly likely to hit California?” she asked them.
“Armageddon by weather,” said Weiss. He had a soft, almost feminine voice.
“A catastrophic superstorm,” Gwen agreed. “It’s been described as Hurricane Katrina pushed through a keyhole. The scenario goes like this: winds of up to 125 km’s per hour, rain falling in feet rather than inches, nine million homes flooded, parts of LA under twenty feet of water, one and a half million residents evacuated, four weeks of solid rain, an area three hundred miles long and twenty miles wide under water, innumerable mud slides, God only knows how many casualties, a trillion dollars worth of damage. Basically a meteorological nightmare and a catastrophe for the state of California. Last time something like this hit was eighteen sixty-one to eighteen sixty-two. Witnesses describe a flying wall of water that swept people and livestock to their deaths. California’s Central Valley—America’s breadbasket, incidentally—was turned into an inland sea for months.”
“And it’s coming our way, only more intense, thanks to global warming,” interjected Messenger. “I’ve read a bit about it. If the government is correct, It’ll hit again, possibly in the next few years. What’s that got to do with your Oracle?”
“Everything! Based on my work with El Niño prediction, I would elevate ARk Storm from a theoretical possibility to a probability,” concluded Gwen.
The room fell silent. Messenger and Weiss glanced at each other and then back to Gwen. If she had hoped to electrify them, she reckoned she’d just done it.
“That’s a pretty big prediction, to put it mildly,” said Messenger. “What does your model say that the government’s ARk Storm version doesn’t?”
“First off, I have an input which they don’t. I am the only forecaster using this input. It is one hundred percent proprietary to Oracle. I’ll come to that later. Second, my own model is also proprietary. And what it tells me is this: The current Niño we are experiencing will be longer and stronger than the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the government predicts. The seas off Peru and Ecuador at the equator are warming at a pace I have never seen. That warming will accelerate over the coming months as their summer kicks in. ARk Storms feed off the atmospheric rivers that in turn feed off those pools of warming seawater. So, in my opinion, this Niño is potentially incubating an ARk Storm.”
Messenger and Weiss exchanged a long look. What were they not saying? Gwen wondered.
“And when do you think this ARk Storm will hit?” asked Messenger.
“It’s September now. Could hit us this winter, or the next. I’m putting my money on one of the two. We’re not there yet at anything close to a hundred percent certainty. I reckon there’s another push that’s needed to bring on a full-scale ARk Storm, but weather variables are so volatile that the push could come in last minute, tip the balance.”
“And tell us, Dr. Boudain, why should we take you seriously? What do you have in the way of proofs?” asked Messenger, resting his chin on steepled hands.
Gwen held out a memory stick. “Take a look at this at your leisure. It gives my model’s predictions of the past four El Niños and compares them against the results. The last two Niños it actually predicted, in strength and duration, over eighteen months in advance. I just ran the numbers back for another two Niños to show how it would have predicted them too.”
Messenger paused a beat, took the memory stick, palmed it.
“Why didn’t it?” asked Weiss.
Gwen shrugged. “I was just a little girl then. My parents were working on perfecting the model at that time.”
“You mentioned you got started on this when you were eight?” asked Weiss, stroking his goatee.
“Way before,” said Gwen. “My parents moved from California to Peru when I was a year old in order to study El Niño. Kids and adults alike all knew straight off when a Niño was coming. The sea got warm. Intoxicatingly warm, where normally it’s cold. My friends and I piled in for hours…we had to be dragged out at meal times. I found it fascinating. Still do.”
“And now you wish to share this with us,” mused Messenger.
Gwen gave him a dazzling smile. “In return for a large investment.”
“Who has financed you to date?” asked Messenger.
“How, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Gwen shrugged. “It’s no secret. I made a decent bit of money from surfing endorsements, modeling, that sort of thing.”
“You’re a surfer?” asked Messenger, face opening with curiosity.
“Yep. But my thing was big waves.”
“Big enough to give you nightmares.”
Messenger grinned for the first time. It transformed the hard-planed face, revealed a kind of locked-down charisma.
“Is that why you stopped? I take it you did. You spoke in the past tense.”
Gwen blew out a breath. The question, the only question, she dreaded. For a second, as she blinked, the images spooled behind her closed lids: the red car hurtling off the road, rolling over and over, coming to a final stop, bursting into flames. Another car, real or imagined, driving victoriously from the scene. She stared across the table at Messenger, meeting and holding his gaze.
“No. I stopped because my parents were killed in a car crash in Peru, and I decided I needed to do something more meaningful with my life than pose in a bikini.” She swallowed, her mouth dry, longed for a glass of water.