Extreme Weather Hits Keep Coming
Since July 5th Arizona has experienced three massive dust storms that have reached heights between 3000 to a mile high. The storms have coated the area with dust and winds associated with them havedowned power lines and led to traffic accidents. Here's a video of the one from July Fifth:
This dust storm shown in the video was over a mile high, roughly 100 miles wide and was associated with winds of between 50 to 60 mph. It was reportedly a 100 year event (i.e., supposed to occur only once every century):
"Very large and historic" are the words the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Phoenix has used to describe this dust storm that brought widespread reports of near zero visibility and wind gusts greater than 50 mph.
The dust storm was estimated to reach a peak height of at least 5,000 to 6,000 (about a mile) with an aerial coverage on the leading edge stretching nearly 100 miles, according to the National Weather Service. The storm traveled at least 150 miles, much farther than the average 25 to 50 miles that dust storms typically travel.
Yet three more blew through Phoenix on Monday, though they were not quite as large as its predecessor:
Dust storms moving through Pinal and Maricopa counties Monday evening towered nearly 4,000 feet high, caused airplane flight delays, could have been a factor in a collision on Interstate 8 and left 2,300 people without electricity.
Officials said the three dust storms blew through almost every part of the Valley, leaving a fine coat of dust over much of the area.
So what is behind these dust storms? Monsoon season thunderstorms coming after severe drought conditions:
The National Weather Service says unusually dry conditions are fueling the dust spectacles.
"It's just bone-dry on the ground," says scientist Doug Green of the National Weather Service.
So far there have been just 1.62 inches of rainfall at Sky Harbor Airport this year, compared with 3.69 inches by July 18 in an average year.
Green says thunderstorms on extra dry terrain south of the Valley kick up more dust that's blown north towards Phoenix.
Bone dry. Not a surprising declaration since the same drought conditions have fueled wildfires all across the Southwest over the past seven months. As of May 11tth, 2.55 Million acres had been burned, almost three times the average over the last ten years. It has been so hot and dry that Governors of Texas (i.e., GOP presidential candidate flavor of the month, Rick Perry) and Oklahoma have called for official days of prayer seeking relief from a "higher power."
Yet, the American Southwest is not alone in experiencing extreme weather events this year. Halfway across the globe, Australia has suffered its share of extreme weather, from massive flooding in Queensland, a Category Five cyclone, to recent severe winds in Sydney (the host of the 2004 Olympics). Check out this video from the BBC in which you can witness winds of 120kmph push the spray from waterfalls upwards.
Consider that these winds and rain are occurring in their winter, which makes them particularly brutal. Here's a similar video in Sydney of severe winds (140kmph) and rain from earlier this month:
and from May:
Finally, Mongol herders may seem like unlikely heralds of climate change. Indeed, many of them may never have heard the term. But they know the climate is worsening, and they aren't shy in saying so in this
Mongolian herders may not know the term “global climate change,” but almost all know that their weather is changing. If asked whether the weather will get better, stay the same or get worse, most of them will say the weather will get worse. Mongolian herders already face difficult seasons with winter temperatures down to minus 40 degrees Celsius and strong, gusty cold spring winds. Summer may not offer much of a respite. The days alternate between cold nights and daytime heat waves or cold, windy, rainy days. Over the last 20 years strong wind gusts have become more frequent and storms arrive with little warning. The herders love their lives, but many are afraid there may be no future in herding for their children. [...]
... One observation that began to emerge from the first interviews was whether they felt the weather was more or less predictable than in the past. Almost 50 percent of the herders volunteered that the weather was more unpredictable. This year we have asked for an explicit response from all herders.
One older herder, Baatar, has lived in the same valley on the steppe for 61 years. With a family of four and almost 200 animals, he depends on his ability to predict weather to determine the best winter pasture and how much hay to collect for animals to supplement winter grazing. However, Baatar told us he can no longer predict the weather for the next season, or even for the next day. This ability remains highly critical for all winters but particularly for the harsh weather of a dzud year, when a herder like Baatar might lose many or all of his animals to a very icy winter. This is what climate change means here.
I suppose that means Mongolian herders are less ignorant than your average Fox news viewer who thinks climate change is a conspiracy caused by Al Gore and climatologists to destroy capitalism. These herders, at the very least, don't deliberately ignore the evidence before the eyes, which is more than we can say for the Republicans in Congress and the former Bush administration.
Then again, their livelihood doesn't depend on campaign contributions from Oil and Gas companies. Notice that Exxon and the Koch Brothers lead the way, and these are only the direct contributions we can trace, not the anonymous donations to PACs like Americans For Prosperity or Karl Rove's outfit, Renew America who spent millions in 2010 to benefit Republicans, and will no doubt spend a great deal more in 2012.
And so America's political leaders will continue to dither, cut spending for renewable energy technologies when they can, preserve subsidies for Big Oil, and watch the world's changing climate destroy the ecological balance of our planet, kill millions of less wealthy human beings, and cause the largest mass extinction on history all from the comfort of their sponsors limousines, private jets, exclusive golf resorts, board rooms, mansions and penthouses.