Insane Storms: Science Saw it Coming, and Yes, It's Part of Climate Change
Every day recently we seem to have warnings and news about massive outbreaks of intense tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Down under (i.e., Australia) in December and January they had record rains, record cyclones and flooding earlier this year during the height of their Summer.
And who can forget the Snowpocalypse in America this February ( I know the folks who attended the Super Bowl in Dallas haven't).
You could call it Snowpocalypse 2011—one of the biggest and worst winter storms since the 1950s has walloped at least 30 U.S. states, according to NASA.
Snow, sleet, freezing rain, and just plain old rain have fallen as part of a massive system that stretches from Texas, through the Rockies, and into New England. [...]
In particular, the storm has brought blizzard conditions to the Midwest, severe ice buildup in the Mississippi River valley, and heavy rain and thunderstorms in the Deep South, according to NASA. [...]
Some cities in the northeastern U.S. have already experienced record snowfall, such as Philadelphia, which has received 37 inches (91 centimeters) of the white stuff this winter, and New York City, which has seen 56 inches (142 centimeters).
The 20.2 inches (51.3 centimeters) of snow that hit Chicago during this winter storm alone make it the third biggest in the Windy City since record keeping began in 1886, according to the National Weather Service.
Here's a photo from space of that massive storm system that practically obscured most of the Continental United States if anyone is suffering from short term memory loss.
All this on the back of the numerous severe weather events in 2010, beginning with severe snowstorms in the Eastern United States, the flooding in Tennessee (especially Nashville), Arkansas, etc. Of course the flooding in the US was miniscule compared to what happened in Pakistan last year:
The summer of 2010 produced Pakistan’s worst flooding in 80 years. The number of people affected, who need food, shelter and clothing to face a harsh Pakistani winter, is 20 million.
Flooding began on July 22, 2010, in the province of Baluchistan. The swollen waters then poured across the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in the northwest before flowing south into Punjab and Sindh. Estimates of the death toll of the floods range from 1,300 to 1,600.
Even as Pakistani and international relief officials scrambled to save people and property, they despaired that the nation’s worst natural calamity had ruined just about every physical strand that knit the country together — roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, electricity and communications.
The flooding, which began with the arrival of the annual monsoons, eventually affected about one-fifth of the country — nearly 62,000 square miles — or an area larger than England.
"God's will" some might say (as some ignorant or simply cruel people always do). But a group of people have been warning about increased incidents of severe weather for some time now, but their predictions have often been ignored or marginalized by our national news media, which has been much more interested in publicizing attacks on their credibility and promoting the viewpoints of a few (a very, very few) critics of their work.
I am speaking of course about climate scientists. So, to be fair, let's take a trip on the wayback machine to theyear 2007 to see what these abused and defamed climate scientists were saying regarding their warnings and predictions of the potential for increased extreme weather events as a result of global climate change:
ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2007) — Researchers who study severe weather and climate change joined forces to study the effects of global warming on the number of severe storms in the future and discovered a dramatic increase in potential storm conditions for some parts of the United States.
The Purdue University-led team used climate models to examine future weather conditions favorable to formation of severe thunderstorms - those that produce flooding, damaging winds, hail and sometimes spawn tornadoes.
"It seems that areas in the U.S. prone to severe thunderstorms now will likely have more of them in the future," said Robert Trapp, the Purdue associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences who led the research team. "We can't predict individual storms, but we can project the number of days with conditions conducive to storm formation." [...]
The study results were compared to current environmental conditions and past environmental conditions shown to produce severe thunderstorms.
Harold Brooks, a member of the research team and researcher at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., said bringing together experts in climate modeling with experts in severe storms to examine how climate change may affect weather was a new approach to a problem important to both groups of researchers.
"Identifying the environmental conditions that favor certain weather has been at the heart of forecasting research," Brooks said. "We applied that forecasting model to the data from climate change research. It is the same way your local forecaster predicts tomorrow's weather, but we took it out over a long time period. Although we can't say if a storm will occur, we can tell from the data how severe a storm will be if it occurs." [...]
Research suggested global warming would lead to an increase in humid air that fuels severe thunderstorms, however, it also suggested global warming would reduce strong winds that contribute to the storms.
"This study was the first to include both of these key factors in order to see which would have a greater influence on overall environmental conditions," said Diffenbaugh, who also is an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue. "The result was a general increase in days more favorable to storm creation. It appears that the increase in warm, humid air near the surface outweighs the reduction in strong winds higher in the atmosphere."
In addition, the study showed a strong seasonal and regional variation in the effects of climate change.
"Some areas were only affected slightly, while others more than doubled the chance for severe thunderstorms," Diffenbaugh said. "Also, the storm-favorable conditions appear to occur during the same seasons as they do today, with an extension of the season in some areas. This increases the seasonal extremes, as opposed to more storms spread throughout the year. It is essentially a longer, more intense storm season - sort of a feast or famine."
Damn those climate change scientists! They are talking about this stuff four years ago. How could they have been so lucky? And what's worse? They weren't the only one's noticing a trend toward more extreme weather. Look at this report of a study regarding an increase in severe weather in New England over the last 60 years,also published in 2007:
Over the last 60 years, New England has seen a 61-percent increase in extreme rainstorms, an environmental advocacy group said in a study released yesterday, and unchecked global warming will likely make them worse. [...]
By analyzing data from more than 3,000 weather stations in the 48 contiguous states from 1948 to 2006, the group found the likelihood of severe rainstorms is increasing almost everywhere in the United States.
Described in the report as “extreme precipitation,” these incidents were determined by taking the 59 most severe precipitation events in a region, such as New England or the Pacific Northwest, and plotting them on a timeline over the last 59 years.
The results showed a gradual increase of extreme precipitation in recent years.
Heck, as long ago as the year 2000 (and no doubt before that, but I'm too lazy to do anymore research on the matter), climate scientists were warning of the potential for increased severe weather events as a result of global warming:
It has been recognized recently that changes in precipitation intensity could have a geographical dependence. For example, Bhaskharan and Mitchell (1998) note that range of precipitation intensity over the south Asian monsoon region broadens in a future climate experiment with increased greenhouse gases, with decreases prevalent in the west and increases more widespread in the east. Increases in extreme precipitation events recently have been projected in nested regional models over Australia (Hennessy et al. 1998) and the United States (Giorgi et al. 1998), and in a high-resolution nested hurricane model over the northwest tropical Pacific (Knutson and Tuleya 1999). [...]
Concerning El Niño’s effects on weather, it previously has been shown that a warmer base state would result in future El Niño–related seasonal precipitation swings that are more extreme (Meehl et al. 1993). Thus, areas in the tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean regions that are anomalously wet during El Niño could become wetter, and anomalously dry areas would become drier during future El Niño events. These changes in extremes in dry spells have been noted more recently to have serious consequences, for example, for water resources on small Pacific islands (Meehl 1996). [...]
Several global climate models indicate that the future mean Pacific climate base state could more resemble an El Niño–like state (i.e., a slackened west–east SST gradient with associated eastward shifts of precipitation), though that result remains model dependent. For such an El Niño–like climate change, future seasonal precipitation extremes associated with a given El Niño would be more intense due to the more El Niño–like mean base state.
I'm not shocked that no one took these studies seriously. The last decade was dominated by the Bush administration's war on science, after all. Inconvenient truths about the consequences of continuing to pump massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere was not a topic fit for discussion when President Bush held office. On the contrary, his administration did their best to deny, delay and repress the dissemination of such information to the general public.
Over the past eight years, the lives of millions of people in the United States and beyond have been endangered by the US government. No, I'm not talking about the war in Iraq. I'm talking about the quiet, systematic war the government has been waging against science.
You may have heard about gross examples of the government censoring scientific documents. For example, it was widely reported last year that a government regulatory group excised at least half of the statements Centers for Disease Control director Julie Gerberding was set to make at a congressional hearing about how climate change will affect public health. [...]
The UCS report documents, in chilling detail, how agencies have fired scientists who disagreed with government policies. [...]
Worse, the government has falsified scientific studies to bolster its policies and undergird its ideological positions. [...]
Most intriguing, though, is the UCS report's suggestion that many federal regulatory agencies may in fact be breaking the law by cutting real science out of government policy decisions. Both the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act require the EPA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to base their decisions on "the best scientific data available." And yet the UCS has documented countless examples of both agencies, as well as others, refusing to take into account the latest research on climate change, animal populations, and systems biology.
Well, you can't suppress science forever. Just ask Galileo. However, it does seem that with enough money and power, corporations with a vested interest in denying the existence of man-made global climate change can either help elect officials who will ignore the problem, or convince enough people that the climate scientists are the real villains here, lying to obtain government grants and make Al Gore rich.
Corporations like Exxon and BP have done a pretty good job pulling the wool over a lot of people's eyes. I'm certain a number of people, even here at Daily Kos, will contest the validity of the predictions made by climate scientists, despite the increase in severe or extreme weather events to which we bear witness seemingly every month if not every week. Like new theories of cosmology to the Roman Catholic Church in the 1600's, and medical studies revealing the dangers of smoking cigarettes sold by the Tobacco companies in the 1950's and 1960's, the science of climate change threatens large, powerful and profitable institutions that will not easily give up their positions of wealth and power, despite knowing that the truth is not on their side.
The Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo to recant his theories that the the earth revolved around the sun. The US tobacco companies spent decades and millions of dollars lying about the health risks of their products.
Yet in the end, the truth was acknowledged. It's only a matter of time before more and more people will stop believing the lies of the Climate Denialist Industry and start believing their own eyes. It's only a question of when, for these extreme storms and weather events are not going away. We are watching them worsen with each passing decade.
No, the only real question is when will we begin to act on what the scientists have told us. When will our governments act to reduce the human activities that drive climate change and thus increase the risk of death and catastrophic destruction about which the climate scientists have been warning us for many, many years. The longer we and our political leaders wait, the longer we ignore the problem staring us in the face, he more suffering and misery and death we, our descendants and the rest of the living species who call this planet earth their home will have to endure.