Houston, You’re Not in Kansas Anymore
May 27, 2016
Why does climate change make for stronger storms and more intense precipitation?
It’s one of the clearest, most elementary predictions from fundamental physics, that a warmer atmosphere holds more water. In addition, this is one of the easiest to document changes that has been observed as climate changes.
Below, interviews with scientists explaining the hows and whys – the kind of succinct explanation that moved Slate’s “Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait to write:
..it pays to keep things on-topic, short, and sweet. That’s why I love the “This Is Not Cool” video series by Peter Sinclair and Yale Climate Connections. They’re short, tackle one issue, have expert interviews, and are easy to understand.
If you agree with that, support these videos by clicking on the Dark Snow logo above.
My friend Paul Douglas, who appears in the vid above, has a piece in the Guardian today on extreme rains.
Is it a fluke, or evidence of a broader trend? Can we connect the dots with a high degree of confidence? Both NASA and local farmers confirm a longer growing seasons, with more allergens, pests and invasive species. Rainfall rates are increasing; wet areas trending even wetter. My home state of Minnesota has witnessed four separate 1-in-1,000 year floods since 2004.
A warmer atmosphere is increasing water vapor levels overhead, juicing storms, fueling an increase in flash floods in the summer, and heavier winter snows along the East Coast of the USA. “All storms are 5 to 10 percent stronger in terms of heavy rainfall” explained Dr. Kevin Trenberth, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “It means what was a very rare event is now not quite so rare.”
In recent decades, weather patterns have appeared to become more sluggish and erratic, worldwide. Rapid warming of the Arctic may be impacting the jet stream, the high-speed river of air that whisks weather systems around the planet. These high-altitude winds are powered by north-south temperature gradients, which are being altered by rapid warming of northern latitudes. Preliminary research suggests a drop in jet stream wind speeds, creating a “wavier” pattern where weather systems can become “stuck”. This translates into supernaturally-persistent blocking patterns, where weather stalls for extended periods of time.
When weather goes into a holding pattern consequences can be severe: record rains; deeper, drier droughts; a longer, more intense wildfire season; and longer periods of life-threatening heat. Worldwide, record highs have exceeded record cold by a significant margin. On July 31, 2015 the town of Bandar Mahshahr, Iran experienced a staggering heat index of 165°F. From relentless winter flooding in the UK to disruption of India’s monsoon to chronic fires in Indonesia to more midwinter rain and less snow from the Alps to the Rockies, the planet’s accelerating warming signal is now showing up in the weather.