Disruptive weather in a warming world

The summer of 2021 was a glaring example of what disruptive weather will look like in a warming world. In mid-July, storms in western Germany and Belgium dropped up to eight inches of rain in two days. Floodwaters ripped buildings apart and propelled them through village streets. A week later a year’s worth of rain—more than two feet—fell in China’s Henan province in just three days. Hundreds of thousands of people fled rivers that had burst their banks.,,In mid-August a sharp kink in the jet stream brought torrential storms to Tennessee that dropped an incredible 17 inches of rain in just 24 hours; catastrophic flooding killed at least 20 people. None of these storm systems were hurricanes or tropical depressions.

Soon enough, though, Hurricane Ida swirled into the Gulf of Mexico, the ninth named tropical storm in the year’s busy North Atlantic season. On August 28 it was a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 85 miles per hour. Less than 24 hours later Ida exploded to Category 4, whipped up at nearly twice the rate that the National Hurricane Center uses to define a rapidly intensifying storm. It hit the Louisiana coast with winds of 150 miles an hour, leaving more than a million people without power and more than 600,000 without water for days. Ida’s wrath continued into the Northeast, where it delivered a record-breaking 3.15 inches of rain in one hour in New York City. The storm killed at least 80 people and devastated a swath of communities in the eastern U.S.

What all these destructive events have in common is water vapor—lots of it. Water vapor—the gaseous form of H2O—is playing an outsized role in fueling destructive storms and accelerating climate change. As the oceans and atmosphere warm, additional water evaporates into the air. Warmer air, in turn, can hold more of that vapor before it condenses into cloud droplets that can create flooding rains. The amount of vapor in the atmosphere has increased about 4 percent globally just since the mid-1990s. That may not sound like much, but it is a big deal to the climate system. A juicier atmosphere provides extra energy and moisture for storms of all kinds, including summertime thunderstorms, nor’easters along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, hurricanes and even snowstorms…

Fascinating – and dangerous – forecasting. Even here in the desert Southwest, we can look forward to drought and unusual cloudbursts. The scariest part being rapid intensification – with circumstances changing dramatically in a matter of hours. Not only an interesting read. Something needing to be added to our understanding of changing weather systems in our future – for simple self-preservation.

20 thoughts on “Disruptive weather in a warming world

  1. Hoser says:

    At least one dead, Vancouver port closed in Canada floods : Heavy rain has prompted evacuations in British Columbia and caused power outages in the US state of Washington. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/16/flood-damage-cuts-rail-access-to-vancouver-port-canadas-largest
    British Columbia and the US northwest have been frequently experiencing extreme weather events that experts partly blame on global warming. The region saw large wildfires and record temperatures over the summer in a heatwave that killed hundreds of people.

  2. Cassandra says:

    ● “Up to 100 people likely killed by tornadoes in western Kentucky, Gov. Beshear says” https://www.wlky.com/article/western-kentucky-tornado-mayfield-bowling-green-weather-beshear/38490463
    “The tornado started in the northeastern corner of Arkansas and followed a northeasterly path from there that took it through parts of Missouri and Tennessee before slashing into over 200 miles of Kentucky.
    That makes that single tornado likely to eclipse the track of the current record holding 1925 tri-state tornado as the longest tornado in terms of touchdown time in the entire nation’s history.”
    ● “Extreme weather to cost US over $100bn this year: Joe Biden” (Sept 15, 2021) https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/15/biden-says-extreme-weather-set-to-cost-us-over-100bn-this-year
    ● “Climate emergency: The most extreme weather events of 2021” (Nov 1, 2021) https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/1/recapping-the-most-major-weather-events-of-2021

  3. Harbingers says:

    The National Weather Service is warning of “another historical weather day” Wednesday. The agency issued two “never-before-seen outlooks” for dangerous weather in two different areas of the country. https://fox2now.com/news/weather/two-never-before-seen-forecasts-including-after-dark-tornado-risk-issued-by-nws/
    107 MPH Gust Recorded On Colorado Eastern Plains, Almost Category 3 Hurricane Force Wind https://denver.cbslocal.com/2021/12/15/strong-wind-colorado-eastern-plains-national-weather-service-high-wind-warning/

    • Back 2 Future says:

      Intense storms delivered destructive and record-setting winds Wednesday from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, tearing off roofs, overturning trucks, shutting down a stretch of an interstate highway and even forcing evacuation of some air traffic controllers.
      At least 55 reports of hurricane-force thunderstorm wind gusts over 75 mph were made across the Great Plains and Midwest, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center — the most recorded in the US in one day. Around 300 severe wind reports came in across the regions throughout the day, with alerts impacting at least 80 million people. https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/16/weather/extreme-weather-central-us-thursday/index.html
      Video: Strong winds create dust storms across central US

  4. iIluktuk says:

    “Before and during the crippling snowstorm that brought traffic to a standstill on Interstate 95 on Jan. 3, the National Weather Service made information available about the heavy snow threat to the Virginia Department of Transportation on multiple occasions.
    Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on I-95 between Jan. 3 and 4 near Fredericksburg, some for over 24 hours without food, water and other essential supplies.
    Materials provided to The Washington Post by the Weather Service show that VDOT was sent forecast information and invited to briefings in which the strong possibility of heavy snowfall was conveyed. VDOT was also briefed about the storm threat by DTN, a private company based in Minnesota that does forecast consulting for transportation agencies, among other customers.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2022/01/13/vdot-i95-snow-forecast-nws/

    • p/s says:

      “More than 50 million people across the eastern US are under winter weather alerts early Monday as a massive storm system churns on after leaving its mark from Florida to Maine with tornadoes, freezing rain and snow.
      The winter storm will bring more heavy snowfall on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to the Northeast after causing widespread power outages, major road closures and myriad flight cancellations a day earlier across the Southeast.” https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/17/weather/winter-storm-ice-snow-monday/index.html

  5. Bomb cyclone says:

    The path of a weekend nor’easter is becoming clearer as 75 million people from the Southeast to New England may face dangerous heavy snow and winds approaching hurricane intensity with the potential to knock out power, flood coastal areas and severely impair travel, forecasts that have prompted several leaders to declare emergencies.
    The storm is due to form Friday off the coast of the Carolinas and rapidly strengthen as it moves north up the East Coast overnight into Saturday. https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/28/weather/noreaster-bomb-cyclone-storm-friday/index.html

  6. Benny says:

    “Storm Eunice blows off rooftops with highest wind speeds on record in England” https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/18/world/storm-eunice-landfall-weather-climate-intl-gbr/index.html
    “Storm Eunice tore down rooftops and trees, crushed cars and sent planes skidding on London’s runways as millions of people across the United Kingdom hunkered down at home to stay out of hurricane-strength winds.
    The UK Met Office expanded its rare “danger-to-life” weather alert on Friday morning to include most of the south of England and some of Wales, before Eunice picked up speed with winds as high as 122 miles per hours (mph), the fastest on record in England. High wind speeds is what make wind storms intense.”
    …no shit, Sherlock

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