More Storms Wind Up Across Red State America

April 4, 2023

More tornadoes will likely be spinning up tonight and tomorrow across the US heartland. Sullivan Indiana, where I was visiting this past summer in support of solar energy, was flattened last week by a powerful storm.

In the weather report above, climate is not mentioned, but regular viewers of this series will recognize the signature of a wavy jet stream and bulbous arctic outbreak bumping up against anomalously warm air from the Gulf of Mexico.

Hartmann Report:

Republicans have been lying to their voters in the Midwest and South for decades, and now those the same voters are dying as a result of unprecedented severe weather that ties directly back to those lies.

This is a climate change story that fossil fuel billionaires and their GOP lackeys would rather you didn’t know.

As more and more people are killed by extraordinarily severe weather in places where it used to be unusual it’s going to get harder and harder to keep Red State citizens from finding out how badly they’ve been screwed by the unholy alliance between Republicans and oil barons.

Severe weather in the United States is not only getting worse, it’s moving.

There’s a reason L. Frank Baum placed his 1901 novel The Wizard of Oz in Kansas: the worst and most frequent tornado activity in the world at that time was in the American Great Plains states — particularly Kansas.

Now that’s changing, as weather extremes are moving to the Midwest and the South. Recently, deadly tornadoes — some with wind velocities in excess of 200 mph — have ravaged Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Georgia, Ohio and Indiana.

This new burst of unusually extreme weather is driven by global warming and its impact on the Arctic, our oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico. 

And it’s going to be America’s new normal, although in all probability this is just the beginning and over time it will get a lot worse.

America has always had the most extreme weather of anyplace else on Earth, according to Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards Vulnerability and Resilience Institute at the University of South Carolina.

China has more people and a larger landmass than we do, but, Cutter told ABC News, “they don’t have the same kind of clash of air masses as much as you do in the U.S. that is producing a lot of the severe weather.”

The severity of America’s Great Plains states’ historically extreme weather was the result of geography.

While there’s a massive amount of land on either side of the European/Asian land mass, the United States is bracketed by two giant bodies of water, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. We also have a huge mountain range — the Rockies — that helps determine where turbulent air from the west ends up, particularly as it encounters colder air from the north and warmer air from over the Gulf of Mexico.

As North Carolina state climatologist Kathie Dello told ABC News, it’s because of “where we are on the globe,” adding, “It’s truly a little bit … unlucky.”

But now, as the Gulf of Mexico is heating up faster than the oceans on either side of us, combined with “bomb cyclone” cold weather coming down from Canada because melting ice in the Arctic is making the Jet Stream less stable, that severe weather is moving to the Midwest and South.

This appears to be one of the most consequential outcomes of climate change, severe weather-wise, for the United States.

As Victor Gensini, associate professor in the Earth, Atmosphere and Environment Department at Northern Illinois University, told The Chicago Tribune, the Midwest and South are replacing the Plains states as the epicenter of severe weather.

“That’s a really, really big deal for human exposure and vulnerability,” Gensini toldEzra Maille. “A tornado that goes through a wheat field in Kansas is not a big deal, but a tornado that goes through southern Cook County is a huge deal.”

He added that the Great Plains will probably continue to experience more and more severe drought while tornado activity is shifting toward the East and South.

The fossil fuel industry has known with a high level of certainty how severe weather was a probable outcome of America’s dependence on their products ever since the 1970s. 

Yet for the fifty years since then — and continuing to this day — they fund phony “science” and shills to deny climate change or try to spin it as a positive, all while pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaign coffers and personal bank accounts of mostly Republican politicians.

We’re at least 40 years behind where we should be in dealing with the fossil fuel/global warming crisis because giant oil companies have run massive disinformation campaigns while funding the political careers of hacks in Congress willing to lie to the public for them.

President Jimmy Carter declared a national crisis in 1979 and proposed legislation to create “this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”

FDR had sold bonds to the public to fund a government corporation that would develop synthetic rubber for fighter plane tires back in the day, and Carter wanted to do the same to end our dependence on fossil fuels:

“Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II,” Carter said, “so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war.”

In that same July 15, 1979 speech, he proposed the government issue bonds that would fund:

“[T]he creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in America’s energy security.”

But it all came crashing down 43 years ago when the fossil fuel industry’s candidate, Ronald Reagan, replaced Carter, killed the solar bank and the bond program, and even took Carter’s solar panels off the roof of the White House.

The big question now is how long the GOP will be able to keep up their climate change denial in the Red states currently being hammered by extreme weather before their citizens catch on to what’s happening and demand action to reduce our carbon emissions.

As Dr. Michael Mann, Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Penn Center for Science, Sustainability, and the Media (PCSSM), told me yesterday:

“It is rather ironic that many of the states that are seeing the worst climate change impacts—Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida—are red states, with governors and legislatures that are far more interested in doing the bidding of polluters than representing the people they’re supposed to be representing.

“Unsurprisingly, these states are all among the lowest when it comes to per capita spending on public education. The alliance of rightwing politicians and polluters prefers a poorly educated electorate, ignorant of the environmental health damage being done to them.”

Washington Post:

Every extreme weather disaster leaves a lasting mark, often displacing people in its path. But the biblical floods in Eastern Kentucky have highlighted a deepening reality that many communities face as climate change fuels catastrophes of greater intensity and frequency: a housing crisis that persists long after the immediate disaster has faded.

Between cash-strapped local governments, under-resourced nonprofit organizations and slow-moving federal recovery efforts, many residents have concluded that they are largely on their own.

“We already had a housing crisis,” said Scott McReynolds, the executive director of the Housing Development Alliance in Hazard, Ky. The floods made the problem far worse. “It’s staggering,” he said. “Folks are having to make hard decisions.”

One recent analysis found that 6 in 10 Kentucky families with homes damaged in the floods have annual incomes of $30,000 or less, a reality that makes recovery only more daunting, said Eric Dixon, a senior researcher at the Ohio River Valley Institute, a think tank that conducted the study.

“It’s very difficult to see how the folks who lost their homes are going to find the money to rebuild,” he said.

Even before the most recent floods in Eastern Kentucky, parts of the state endured another episode of severe flooding and devastating tornado damage in 2021. As the prospect of more compounding disasters looms in the future, advocates worry that recovery will only become harder.

“We are having more and more extreme weather events,” said Adrienne Bush, the executive director of the Homeless & Housing Coalition of Kentucky. “And our housing built in the 20th century is not up to the task.”

In recent months, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has announced plans to build hundreds of new homes on higher ground — using a 50-acre parcel in Perry County, a 75-acre spot in Knott County and possibly other places to be designated — with construction partly funded with flood-relief money.

Finding usable land can be difficult in Eastern Kentucky, where narrow valleys and steep mountain terrain complicate building. It remains unclear how soon new housing would be available under those projects.

Below, storm damage from last week in Sullivan, Indiana.


4 Responses to “More Storms Wind Up Across Red State America”

  1. ecoquant Says:

    A preview of things to come?

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    In the weather report above, climate is not mentioned….

    Maybe he’s self-censoring because of his audience. Most of the people he’s trying to reach/warn are in solid red areas.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      agree – he is Kentucky based, and speaking to audiences across the southern midwest.
      He is doing good work and performing a service, but ultimately he’s going to have to tell people more
      about what is happening to them.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        His primary goal seems to be to protect people from weather events in real time.
        (It’s a major theme of his streams that local people need to personally warn others in towns that are under tornado threats.)

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