Another Surge Of Heat Is Imminent
It turns out 1-6 month climate models may do a better job predicting heat and drought than floods. Back in March and April I mentioned that a consensus of NOAA’s climate models were predicting a hotter, drier summer – a forecast that has most definitely verified.
Floods are harder, with a much shorter lead time, as storms or fronts stall. We may never be able to offer up more than 1-3 days of warning for extreme floods like the ones that struck western Europe, Lagos, Nigeria and Zhengzhou, China – where nearly a year’s worth of rain fell in 3 days. It’s increasingly all or nothing these days.
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (and Skies). Late morning yesterday air quality was poor from coast to coast, with the worst conditions over northern tier states.
Sizzling Into Mid-August. I see no abrupt changes in the pattern over North America looking out 2-3 weeks with a well-established heat-pump high pressure ridge over the central USA keeping temperatures well above average. The only exception: cooler/wetter weather for New England and the Pacific Northwest as we sail into August.
Tracking Fires and Smoke. AerisWeather AMP maps showed the location of major fires and lowest visibility from wildfire smoke late morning yesterday. Stating the obvious: there are scores of fires upwind from Minnesota, but smoke is now gripping much of the USA.
Deadly Flooding In Zhengzhou, China After A Year Of Rain Falls In 3 Days: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “More than two dozen people have been killed by catastrophic flash flooding in central China in recent days. At least a dozen people drowned in the subway in Zhengzhou, Henan province, and about 100,000 people have been evacuated. Social media videos showed extreme flooding that turned cars into bathtub toys — as well as the harrowing rescue of 150 children and teachers from a flooded kindergarten. The city was deluged by 24.3” (617.1mm) of rain — 96% of its annual average — in just three days from Saturday to Tuesday. The extreme rainfall, and the severe heatwaves that strained the province’s electrical grid just days prior, are both clear signals of the climate crisis, caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels. “Such extreme weather events will likely become more frequent in the future,” Johnny Chan, a professor of atmospheric science at City University of Hong Kong, told Reuters.” (Reuters, New York Times $, Washington Post $, BBC, The Guardian, France24, Al Jazeera, Bloomberg $; Recent heatwaves: Bloomberg $; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation increase; Extreme heat and heatwaves)
None of the Old Rules Still Apply When the Driest City in the US Faces Catastrophic Drought. Mother Jones has a story about Las Vegas; here’s a clip: “…A city that contains a huge replica of the Eiffel tower, sprawling golf courses, and a simulacrum of Venetian canals complete with gondolas can never be said to fit in with its surroundings. But Las Vegas, called “The Meadows” in Spanish due to its natural springs that were pumped dry by the 1960s, is at least aware of its setting in a place so arid that only a few small creosote bushes and tumbleweeds can survive here naturally. “We live in the desert. We are the driest city in the United States, in the driest state in the United States,” said Colby Pellegrino, deputy manager of resources for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “We have to act like it.” Pellegrino said the recent escalation of the drought has been “very scary” for some Vegas residents, although she insists the water authority has planned for this moment…”
The “Wet Bulb” Warning. CNN.com has a reminder that the wet bulb temperature is even more accurate than the heat index when it comes to predicting the impact of heat on human health: “The city, along with Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, has temporarily crossed the threshold beyond which the human body cannot sweat enough to cool itself down. A “wet bulb” temperature of 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) — which factors both heat and relative humidity — can be fatal after a few hours, even assuming ideal conditions such as unlimited drinking water, inactivity or shade. In practice, the bar for this wet bulb temperature, which is measured by covering a thermometer with a wet cloth, is much lower — as shown by the deadly heat waves in Europe in 2003 that are estimated to have claimed 70,000 lives…”
Hurricanes Are Getting More Dangerous, But Not More Frequent. Here’s an excerpt from a post at Science News: “Climate change is helping Atlantic hurricanes pack more of a punch, making them rainier, intensifying them faster and helping the storms linger longer even after landfall. But a new statistical analysis of historical records and satellite data suggests that there aren’t actually more Atlantic hurricanes now than there were roughly 150 years ago, researchers report July 13 in Nature Communications. The record-breaking number of Atlantic hurricanes in 2020, a whopping 30 named storms, led to intense speculation over whether and how climate change was involved (SN: 12/21/20). It’s a question that scientists continue to grapple with, says Gabriel Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton University…”
Study Predicts Record Flooding in 2030s Due to Moon and Climate Change. Say what? Apparently this lunar “wobbles” are normal, superimposed on a rapidly changing climate and sea level rise that is anything but normal. Here’s a clip from NPR: “…The moon’s orbit is due for its regular “wobble.” That is entirely natural, NASA says, and it has been recorded as far back as 1728. Half of the moon’s 18.6-year cycle creates lower high tides and higher low tides; the other creates higher high tides and even lower low tides. But NASA says global sea level rise will likely push those high tides higher, and one of the study’s co-authors, NASA Sea Level Change Team leader Ben Hamlington, said that because waters will be higher, this moon cycle could have a much more dramatic effect. “We’re getting closer and closer to the flooding thresholds or tipping point in these coastal locations,” he said. “The same variability in the past that didn’t cause flooding is now going to cause flooding…”
Is Maryland Becoming the New Tornado Alley? Short answer: no. At least not yet, based on the data. Here’s a clip from a feature story at Baltimore Magazine: “…So is Maryland suddenly becoming the new Tornado Alley? The better question might be, does anyone remember these back-to-back twisters in Howard County? Or, the 11 tornadoes that Hurricane Isaias spawned across Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore last August? Sure, many people will remember Hurricane Isabel in 2003—estimated damages came close to $1 billion in Maryland and Washington, D.C.—when images of Baltimoreans paddling around downtown made the news. But what about the rest of our extreme events? “We do have kind of a shared amnesia,” Halverson says. “I think it’s a coping mechanism. If it hasn’t hurt our house, our family, our brain pushes it back in our memory and we think, ‘Oh that stuff doesn’t happen here…’”
8 Creative Ways People Kept Cool Before Air Conditioning. Access to a nearby lake sure doesn’t hurt. Mental Floss has the post; here’s an excerpt: “…One thing you immediately notice when looking at photographs of famous buildings before the invention of A/C is that they frequently sported awnings over nearly every window. Going back to antiquity, awnings provided the shade vital for keeping the sun’s heat at bay. In the latter half of the 19th century, new colors and patterns helped make canvas awnings more than a necessary utility: They became a key decorative feature of a home. “As to colors, quite the richest and most effective combinations are shades of orange and brown,” The Ladies’ World magazine reported in 1896. Tassels were apparently a nice touch, too…”
As Scientists Have Long Predicted, Warming is Making Heatwaves More Deadly. Yale Climate Connections reports; here’s an excerpt: “…Contributing to the World Weather Attribution project, 27 scientists worked around the clock for a week immediately after this extreme event to determine the role played by climate change. The team used published peer-reviewed methods, comparing numerous model simulations of two scenarios: the “world as it was” when the event occurred, and a counterfactual “world that might have been” had humans not altered Earth’s climate by burning fossil fuels over the past 150 years. The results are striking. The authors concluded that a heat event so extreme was “virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.” While it’s difficult to quantify the rarity of such unprecedented weather, their best estimate was that it was a 1-in-1,000-year event. Without human-caused climate change, such an extreme event would be at least 150 times rarer, and the heatwave was about 3.6°F hotter than it would have been naturally…”
A Warming Tokyo Hosts the Olympics. Here’s an excerpt from Climate Central: “Japan’s climate is warming due to climate change. And the added heat, on top of an already hot and muggy summertime climate, could make the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics one of the hottest in modern times. Even the best athletes will be adversely affected by climate change. More intense heat, humidity, and poorer air quality could lead to heat-related illnesses and decreased performance. In hotter temperatures, certain sports, like the marathon, tennis, and the triathlon, can become dangerous. Factors that can increase heat risk include duration of play, intensity of play, surface of play (water vs. turf vs. blacktop), and more…”
Climate Change and Tornadoes: Any Connection? Bob Henson reports for Yale Climate Connections: “…Although the total yearly count of significant, EF1-or-stronger tornadoes (EF1+) hasn’t risen or fallen substantially or over a sustained period, how these tornadoes are distributed across time is another matter. The monthly variability of EF1+ tornadoes has increased since the 1970s, with a growing occurrence of both record-busy and record-calm months, according to a 2014 study. To cite a recent example, the count of 510 tornadoes of all strengths in May 2019 was more than 100 above any other May on record. Just two years later, May 2021 became the first May on record without a single EF3-or-stronger tornado (EF3+) anywhere in the United States…”
Catastrophic Floods Could Hit Europe Far More Often, Study Finds. Details via The Guardian: “Catastrophic floods such as those that struck Europe recently could become much more frequent as a result of global heating, researchers say. High-resolution computer models suggest that slow-moving storms could become 14 times more common over land by the end of the century in a worst-case scenario. The slower a storm moves, the more rain it dumps on a small area and the greater the risk of serious flooding. Researchers already knew that the higher air temperatures caused by the climate crisis mean the atmosphere can hold more moisture, which in turn has led to more extreme downpours. The latest analysis, however, is the first to assess the role of slow-moving storms in causing extreme downpours in Europe...”
As Disasters Spiral, Cities Confront Need for Climate Adaptation. Bloomberg CityLab + Green has the post; here’s the intro: “When record-shattering triple-digit temperatures hit the Pacific Northwest in late June, some scientists saw more than just an extraordinarily unusual heat wave amid the severe drought and wildfires already afflicting the Western U.S. this summer. Researchers with the group World Weather Attribution studied the event, which impacted nine million people, killed hundreds, and obliterated local heat records by as many as nine degrees, and determined it could be something of a landmark in the escalation of the climate crisis — a weather event so off the charts that it would have been statistically impossible in a world before human-caused climate change. As Dutch climate researcher Geert Jan van Oldenborgh put it during an episode of The Daily, “we could be past the threshold that made these kinds of heat waves certainly much more likely.” Weather extremes once expected to come in decades are occurring today. And too many cities are dangerously unprepared...”
“No One is Safe”: How the Heatwave Has Battered the Wealthy World. Here’s perspective from The New York Times; an excerpt: “…And even though it will take extensive scientific analysis to link climate change to last week’s cataclysmic floods in Europe, a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture and is already causing heavier rainfall in many storms around the world. There is little doubt that extreme weather events will continue to be more frequent and more intense as a consequence of global warming. A paper published Friday projected a significant increase in slow-moving but intense rainstorms across Europe by the end of this century because of climate change. “We’ve got to adapt to the change we’ve already baked into the system and also avoid further change by reducing our emissions, by reducing our influence on the climate,” said Richard Betts, a climate scientist at the Met Office in Britain and a professor at the University of Exeter…”
Climate Change: Science Failed to Predict Flood and Heat Intensity. BBC News has the story: “Top climate scientists have admitted they failed to predict the intensity of the German floods and the North American heat dome. They’ve correctly warned over decades that a fast-warming climate would bring worse bursts of rain and more damaging heatwaves. But they say their computers are not powerful enough to accurately project the severity of those extremes. They want governments to spend big on a shared climate super-computer. Computers are fundamental to weather forecasting and climate change, and computing will underpin the new climate science “Bible”, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) next month…”
Why Record-Breaking Overnight Temperatures Are So Concerning. The New York Times (paywall) reports: “Last month was the hottest June on record in North America, with more than 1,200 daily temperature records broken in the final week alone. But overlooked in much of the coverage were an even greater number of daily records set by a different — and potentially more dangerous — measure of extreme heat: overnight temperatures. On average, nights are warming faster than days across most of the United States, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment Report. It’s part of a global trend that’s being fueled by climate change…”
The Green New Deal Does Not, Strictly Speaking, Exist. The Atlantic has an interesting Op-Ed: “…With so much ballyhoo, it’s become easy to miss the central, implacable fact about the Green New Deal: It does not exist. By this, I don’t mean that it hasn’t passed. I mean something more fundamental: Nobody has written it down. Three years after the idea of a Green New Deal broke into the mainstream, you can’t find an authoritative and detailed list of Green New Deal policies anywhere. There is no handbook, no draft legislation, no official report that articulates what belongs in a Green New Deal and what doesn’t. This is more than just an academic point. It means that tens of thousands of Americans want very badly to see Congress adopt a political program that definitionally cannot pass, because there is no “it” for lawmakers to vote on. It means that Biden’s infrastructure package cannot be compared with the Green New Deal, because the contrast will not find purchase…”