Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"Thousand -Year Summer Storms" - Expect More And More

The headline on p. 6 in the latest TIME blared:  "A Thousand Year Storm Hits Louisiana" , which seems barely weeks after we read of another such event bashing Maryland, and earlier West Virginia. Are these just "coincidental" meteorological events or might they be somehow tied to the advent of even more ferocious climate change, global warming.

In the case of all the previous events and especially in LA, we are informed "the air had been full of moisture - meteorologists call it 'precipitable water'- so all it took was a modest front to make the skies burst.'

The piece then went on to point out "Epic floods have hit the South with alarming frequency in recent months."

Indeed, and make no mistake at root global warming IS the culprit.

We now know from research published by Dim Coumou and colleagues at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research that rapid Arctic warming has bolstered summer heat waves. These heat waves have engendered warmer, moister atmosphere of the type most likely to trigger massive floods, including the so-called "thousand year events".

At the same time Coumou et al have found a decrease in continent cooling storms as a result of a weakened jet stream, owing to an Arctic warming twice as fast as lower latitudes in the Northern hemisphere. This rapid Arctic warming has in effect reduced the temperature differential that drives the polar winds- thereby weakening the jet stream.

Previous studies that investigated the impact of the dwindling jet stream on lower latitude only focused on fall and winter effects. During these intervals the Arctic Ocean warms the overlying air, obscuring the jet stream effects to Coumou et al instead. Focused on summers using meteorological data from 1979-2013.

The work, published in Science (3/12/15)  showed that the summer jet stream slowed by 5 percent during that interval. That slowing in turn caused a 10 percent decrease in the energy available to power cooler summer storms.

The result? Without the relief afforded by the cooler summer storms, the N. Hemisphere faces longer and longer bouts of intense summer heat. This in turn will make the atmosphere more "precipitable" opt laden with water, which upon being triggered will lead to more "thousand year flood events" such as we have seen.

The takeaway is that rapid climate change is already ravaging large swaths of the country, as well as the planet. It is not some distant future as the climate deniers make out, but upon us right now.  If the deniers - mainly driven by capitalist Neoliberal economics - have their way, nothing will be done. They talk about raising misplaced alarm, but what else to call  an event that (according to TIME)  "has left more than 30,000 people evacuated from their homes" with "30 of Louisiana's 64 parishes declared disaster areas."

If the climate change deniers don't recognize such events as alarming and worthy  of  action, then one can only conclude they are either blind, brainwashed by the fossil fuelers or simply don't care what happens to their fellow humans. Particularly those that are in harm's way because of the adversely changing conditions.

Or, maybe the deniers are fortunate to live in such rarefied digs or gated communities they  feel they'll be spared whatever happens to the rest of us who aren't so lucky. Hence, they can afford to put  capital markets and economics above all other priorities.

A serious error, if ever there was one.

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