Year Ends with Wild Weather, Climate Chaos

December 31, 2015

Somehow, “teachable moment” just doesn’t cut it….


The year, expected to be the hottest on record, may be over at midnight Thursday, but the trouble will not be. Rain in the central United States has been so heavy that major floods are beginning along the Mississippi River and are likely to intensify in coming weeks. California may lurch from drought to flood by late winter. Most serious, millions of people could be threatened by a developing food shortage in southern Africa.

Scientists say the most obvious suspect in the turmoil is the climate pattern called El Niño, in which the Pacific Ocean for the last few months has been dumping immense amounts of heat into the atmosphere. Because atmospheric waves can travel thousands of miles, the added heat and accompanying moisture have been playing havoc with the weather in many parts of the world.

But that natural pattern of variability is not the whole story. This El Niño, one of the strongest on record, comes atop a long-term heating of the planet caused by mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases. A large body of scientific evidence says those emissions are making certain kinds of extremes, such as heavy rainstorms and intense heat waves, more frequent.

Coincidence or not, every kind of trouble that the experts have been warning about for years seems to be occurring at once.

“As scientists, it’s a little humbling that we’ve kind of been saying this for 20 years now, and it’s not until people notice daffodils coming out in December that they start to say, ‘Maybe they’re right,’ ” said Myles R. Allen, a climate scientist at Oxford University in Britain.

Dr. Allen’s group, in collaboration with American and Dutch researchers, recently completed a report calculating that extreme rainstorms in the British Isles in December had become about 40 percent more likely as a consequence of human emissions. That document — inspired by a storm in early December that dumped stupendous rains, including 13 inches on one town in 24 hours — was barely finished when the skies opened up again.

Washington Post:

The dramatic storms are ending a year of record-setting weather globally, with July measured as the hottest month ever and 2015 set to be the warmest year.

Up and down the U.S. East Coast, this month will close as the hottest December ever. In much of the Northeast into Canada, temperatures on Christmas rose into the 70s — tricking bushes and trees into bloom in many locations. In the Washington area, forsythia, azaleas and even cherry blossoms were suddenly in full color.

“I see this as a double whammy,” Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Penn State University, said in an email. “El Niño . . . is one factor, human-caused climate change and global warming is another. You put the two together, and you get dramatic increases in certain types of extreme weather events.”


River Dee in Scotland during Storm Frank

Dr. Jeff Masters for Weather Underground:

A historic and unseasonable flood has begun on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, thanks to heavy rains that fell from Oklahoma to the Ohio Valley during Christmas week. Never before has water this high been observed in winter along the levee system of the river. The Father of Waters began over-topping its levees just north of West Alton, Missouri (population 500) on Tuesday, forcing evacuations. West Alton lies at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, about 7 miles upriver from St. Louis. The river is still rising at West Alton, and is expected to crest on Thursday morning at the second highest level ever recorded, about 5′ below the disastrous flood of 1993.

On Friday, the massive Mississippi River flood crest will reach St. Louis, bringing the second highest waters levels ever recorded there (flood records extend way back to 1785 in St. Louis.) The three river gauges downstream from St. Louis–at Chester, Cape Girardeau, and Thebes–are expected to see their highest water highest levels ever recorded on Friday and Saturday. The latest flood forecasts for the Mississippi River issued Tuesday evening by NWS River Forecast Center predicted that Thebes would be the last location to see an all-time record crest in this flood; below Thebes, flood crests between the 2nd and 4th highest on record are expected along most of the Mississippi and the lower portions of two main tributaries, the Ohio and Arkansas Rivers.

The wild record storms that battered the UK 2 years ago are turning out to be the new normal.


6 Responses to “Year Ends with Wild Weather, Climate Chaos”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    I have said more than once that it will take widespread and recurring SHTF episodes before we start to pay attention. The problem is that humans have short attention spans and short memories, so it will likely have to get much worse before our response begins to get much better.

    In the meantime, retailers are reporting very good sales over the holiday season and light truck and big SUV sales are soaring because gas is so cheap, so at least some people have got their priorities in order. Perhaps we should stop trying to “teach” them anything?—it’s like trying to teach pigs to whistle—frustrating for the teacher and annoying for the pig.

    • rlmrdl Says:

      Exactly. I refuse to have conversations with deniers, doubters, skeptics or pigs unless the ground rules are that GW is well into its work and that the probability that we have caused/massively intensified it is north of 95%. Then, and only then, am I prepared to talk about the weather.

      At this stage of the process, anyone who is not wholly on board after their own personal “holy shit its real” moment is a child (chronologically or mentally) suffering dementia or pouring all of their cognitive resources into not seeing or hearing anything and I don’t have time to try and fix that.

    • addledlady Says:

      I suspect that it will only be addressed properly when the message _finally_ gets through some thick skulls that the floods we’re seeing in the UK and US just now are not ‘once in a lifetime’ or ‘once in a century’ isolated events.

      They’re the sort of thing we now expect to see fairly frequently even though it’s a bit disconcerting that they’re not at the same times or seasons we were used to 10 or 30 years ago. At the moment the short memory thing works, even though the events recur reasonably quickly, because of the ‘once in a long time’ mindset allowing people to treat them as things that have happened and are now over with. We’ll repair, rebuild or reinforce and keep on trucking just as before until the next ‘once in a …’ occurs in a couple of years.

      It’s all very well for people to say that we’re primed to see patterns, but we know full well that people don’t see glaringly obvious patterns that they’re not willing to see. It’s not a mistake or an aberration or a conspiracy that someone receives yet another multi $100s fine for speeding or careless driving. Anyone who’s ever been on the road at the same time as this kind of nong can tell you why they’re always broke from accumulated speeding/traffic fines … they drive too fast and they pay too little attention to lights, signs and traffic conditions.

      Same for people who’ve been flooded out 3 times in 10 years. Their house is either badly designed or badly sited or both. They just don’t want to admit that, let alone face the fact that the insurance company is entirely justified in raising premiums for such a high risk of losses. Some people may have a claim that the company that built the house or the government agency that approved the building application bears some responsibility. However, when a flood wipes out buildings that have stood undamaged for centuries, you have to acknowledge that climate has changed fairly substantially.

  2. Lionel Smith Says:

    Mike Mann nailed it at the end of that first video, ‘We have no choice but to address climate change or it will address us’. Unfortunately climate change is already addressing us but there are still clowns like Lamar Smith who are trying to witch hunt it away.

    The moves of GovUK in the coming weeks and months will be worth watching. I suspect the media will just keep coming up with distraction tactics.

  3. It is worth noting that re the Mississippi floods, previous flood records were earlier in the year and after extended periods of rain and snow melt.

    This was one event of heavy rain just after the Winter Solstice where rivers were down from the drought

    As CB pointed out at Robertscribbler

    We are bringing back the primeval flooding and downpours that shape the landscape and geological formations.
    People just don’t comprehend what the pumping up of the hydrological cycle leads to

    Challenging times ahead for all of us

  4. indy222 Says:

    Speaking of Climate Chaos, here’s the latest from Jason Box and crew. It’s not good news. Greenland melt looks to be worse than we thought…

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