Category Archives: Severe Weather and Other Disasters

Hurricanes may start stalling more, and that is bad.

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The tempo of storms has changed with global warming. A single storm that might drop X amount of water across a zone one thousand miles in length and hundreds of miles wide may now drop that same amount of water over a zone that is only a few hundred miles in length. Major floods in Calgary, Boulder, Southeastern Minnesota, Duluth, and other very wet rainfall events are now on record as examples of this, and the cause is quasi-resonant Rosbey waves. Continue reading Hurricanes may start stalling more, and that is bad.


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Dorian: All those people who evacuated north? Oops

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There was always a chance that Dorian was going to make a right turn. In fact, it wasn’t just “a chance” but a very high probability. But a day or so ago, it was reasonable to say that Dorian would likely, but not necessarily, make that turn AFTER coming ashore in Florida.It now looks like Dorian may make that turn sooner, while still at sea.

We have already seen major news outlets walking all over their own tongues trying to describe that might happen, and thus quite possibly misleading people in a dangerous way. Here, I’ll focus on a new way of explaining the Dorian dilemma.

First, think of a hurricane as a car. The driver is the eye. Perhaps imagine a car where the driver sits more in the middle, like this one: Continue reading Dorian: All those people who evacuated north? Oops


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“Am I going to have access to food or water when I’m 30?” — the question your kids are asking now.

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If you do not understand that this is a valid question, then you do not actually deserve to be breathing our chemically-altered air right now. No excuses.

Continue reading “Am I going to have access to food or water when I’m 30?” — the question your kids are asking now.


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A Hurricane Named Dorian Likely To Hit Florida UPDATED

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Dorian is a poorly to moderately organized tropical storm just west of the northern reach of the Leeward Islands, expected to affect Puerto Rico by the end of the day today, then to move into the Southwest North Atlantic, where it will likely become a hurricane between 36 and 48 hours from now.

It is highly likely that Dorian will strike the US 48 this weekend or Monday, somewhere, as some kind of storm. There is a very good chance this will be Florida as a Category 2 Category 3 or 4, i.e., MAJOR hurricane, but it is very early to be sure of that. Continue reading A Hurricane Named Dorian Likely To Hit Florida UPDATED


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The cold spot caused by global warming and why it should scare you

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You saw the film The Day After Tomorrow. This is that. Not like in the movie, but still…

Warming causes melting of ice, adding fresh water into the North Atlantic, which interferes with a major current system that at present warms Europe.

Consequence: The planet warms dangerously, while at the same time, large parts of Europe become much cooler, to the extent that people may not be able to live there in the manner they do now, or produce very much food there. Gibraltar would have a climate similar to the coast of Maine, and Berlin would have a climate similar to the Northwest Territories or northern Hudson Bay.

The models have predicted this, but it now seems that they’ve under-predicted it. It appears to be happening faster, and more furiously, than expected.


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Chantal, Welcome to Storm World

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Chantal is the next name in line to be use for an Atlantic tropical storm or hurricane name. I’m going to go out on a limb (where I will be duly chastised by my friends and colleagues who are tropical storm experts or meteorologists), and say that a storm currently brewing in the Caribbean has a very good chance of becoming Chantal. Continue reading Chantal, Welcome to Storm World


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ALERT: Hurricane Barry May Hit Gulf Coast Very Soon

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If the current large wet spot in the norther Gulf does develop into a named storm, it will end up being one of the stranger storms we’ve seen.

This feature began as a depression over land, not over the sea. It then moved south over the Gulf, where it sits off the coast. Several different models have it developing to something wind wind speeds of 60 knots or more over the next several hours. The National weather service has it as a Category 1 hurricane by mid day Saturday. That is also when it is expected to push over the coast west of New Orleans.
Continue reading ALERT: Hurricane Barry May Hit Gulf Coast Very Soon


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State of the climate, 2019

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The year 2018 was warm, but since previous years had been super warm, it may have seemed a bit cooler. There was indeed a downswing, but only a little one.

However, 2019 is looking like an upswing year. It will not be as warm as the recent El Nino year, but it will be close, and it will follow the predicted upward course of global warming caused by our release of greenhouse gasses and the effect of those gasses on delicate and critically important atmospheric chemistry.

Climate Central has a a State of the Climate report here.

Note that the various predictions for the activity level of the 2019 hurricane season suggest an average year. The most common midpoint of estimates for the number of actual hurricanes is five, with 2 major ones, in the Atlantic. The long term average for those numbers is 6.4 and 2.7. However, the estimate for the total number of named storms is a bit higher than the average of 12.1, suggesting between 10 and 14 or so. We have already had one, before the official start of the season, but the Atlantic has been relatively quiet since then.

This Spring’s unprecedented flooding is of course directly related to climate change, and there isn’t a sane person on the Earth who doesn’t accept that as truth. You will have a harder time finding people accepting a link between tornado activity, which has been very high this year, and global warming, but it is also true that a) there has been a very well entrenched and active non-acceptance of that relationship for years in the meteorological community and b) it seems that having a few bad years in a row, as we have had with hurricanes, is required before enough people put their thinking caps on and think. So, I await a possible shift in position on tornadoes and global warming.


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A New Book On Drought by NASA GISS’s Ben Cook

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Drought: An Interdisciplinary Perspective by Benjamin (Ben) Cook is the book you’ve always needed handy when the dry side of climate or climate change comes up in conversation.

The relationship between rainfall, groundwater, evaporation and transpiration, vegetation, bodies of water, animal distribution, agriculture, humans, and atmospheric conditions (not to mention oceanic factors and topography) underlie many different realms of academia and policy. Almost nothing I’ve ever done in my anthropological research didn’t include the hydrologic cycle, climate, and related issues. The weather weirding we are currently watching across the globe, including the current heavy rains and tornadoes, are part of this, and the long lived California Drought, the one that ended just recently, is as well.

In Drought: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, Cook looks at the dry end of the spectrum of the hydrologic cycle, but in so doing, he really has to cover the basics of rain related climate. There is math, and there is complicated science, in this book, but all of the material presented here is accessible to anyone who wishes to learn. If you are interested in climate change or agriculture, or paleoclimate, or any of that, Cook’s book is an essential reference, filling a gap that exists in the available range of current public-facing serious science books.

Cook covers the hydrologic cycle and the relationship between the hydrologic cycle and climatology. He defines the sometimes confusing concepts and measurements known as “drought” in a non-confusing and detailed way. I’ve found that in many discussions of drought, self defined experts who also happen to be climate change deniers tend to talk past (or over or around) others, making it difficult for the average non-expert to avoid frustration. Cook will arm you with the knowledge to stand up to such shenanigans!

Cook covers drought in the Holocene, and the relationship between climate change and drought. He provides two key detailed case studies (the American dust bowl, and droughts in the Sahel of Africa). He covers landscape degradation and desertification, and irrigation.

Drought: An Interdisciplinary Perspective is fully authoritative and thorough, and, as noted, very readable and understandable. Reading this book might make you thirsty but it will also make you smarter.

Ben Cook is a research scientist at NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and he teaches at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies.


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I’m warning you, watch for those tornadoes!

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Paul Douglas points out, as Item #1 in his thoughtful 6 Take-Aways From The Biggest Swarm of U.S. Tornadoes Since 2011, that “too many people still don’t know the difference between a Tornado Watch and a Tornado Warning. A Tornado Watch means “watch out”… Go about your normal activities but stay alert… A Tornado Warning … means that a tornado has been spotted … It means life-threatening weather is imminent… it’s time to take evasive action.”

I’ll note that the words “watch” and “warning” are, as words, not sufficiently hierarchializable (to coin a term) for this job, perhaps. I mean, yes, it makes sense — what Paul Douglas says makes sense — but there could be warning signs of a thing that never happens, and we all agree that if only the watch had been more alert, the Titanic would have veered to the left sooner, thus sailing forward into obscurity instead of infamy. Maybe we need new words.

Paul notes that a “tornado emergency” is also a term of art, and it means that there is a confirmed big tornado “on the ground and capable of significant damage and loss of life, … issued when a large tornado is on the ground and pushing into a more heavily-populated suburban or urban area.” Maybe extending the definition of Tornado Emergency to mean any imminent threat with greater than a certain likelihood? Or would that water it down?

Paul also points out several other aspects, both falsehoods and important truehoods, about tornadoes, so you should just click through and read, and absorb and remember, 6 Take-Aways From The Biggest Swarm of U.S. Tornadoes Since 2011

Do you remember the old Dick Van Dyke Show episode where they had a contest to come up with a new word for “butter?” Don’t remember that? Neither do I, really, but I’m pretty sure it happened. I can not remember what word they came up with. There is evidence that words like “climate change” and “global warming” don’t spark the brain as much as words like “climate chaos” and “climate disruption.” I think that evidence is weak, and at least one study looking at people’s brains, purporting to show this, seems to have some limitations. The idea here is that the words or phrases are less or more effective because of the way they sound. Maybe, and to a large extent words DO have different levels of effectiveness. But how much a word has ever been heard probably strongly influences its effectiveness as well. But that can be much more subtle and nuanced than people may realize. An oft heard word may numb the listeners and fail to cause a brain spark. But at the same time, an oft-heard phrase can insinuate itself into the truth-ish ether that we all swim around in, causing something to become more real whether it is real or not.

(See more about that topic here.)

Also, there is the “w” problem. Both “Watch” and “Warning” start with the same sound. At least they are not the same number of syllables, and at least they don’t rhyme.

Perhaps there should be three words in alphabetical order, at the beginning of the alphabet, allowing for us to speak of the “ABCs” of tornadoes.

Alert! — stay alert since tornadoes COULD form in your area today.
Buckle Down!! — There is a tornado or possible tornado in your area, assume for safety’s sake that you are in danger.
Crap!!!! — If you are listening to this warning you have not dug deep enough into your hole. DIG DEEPER!

Or something along those lines.

Ideas?


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First Named Atlantic Storm of 2019

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Ninety-seven percent of North Atlantic cyclones form after June 1st and before November 30th. Note that the end of the Atlantic hurricane season used to be October 31st, but it was moved because the hurricane scientist got tired of cleaning out their locker six times a year instead of just one time. Over the many years of tracking storms, 89 named storms have happened outside the named season.

So it is not utterly odd that Tropical Storm Andrea is now swirling about in the Atlantic, southwest of Bermuda.

It is possible, but unlikely, that Andrea will turn into a hurricane. It is too early to be sure bla bla bla but all the available information about this storm strongly indicates that it will move up the middle of the Atlantic and eventually become a large wet spot somewhere in Europe. I’m putting my money on Ireland. (yes, I now, too early bla bla bla, but Ireland.)

For your information, the next named storm will be Barry. Then…

Chantal
Dorian
Erin
Fernand
Gabrielle
Humberto
Imelda
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Melissa
Nestor
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy


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