Extreme Weather Now the Norm
Extreme weather events are rocketing upwards in their frequency of occurrence, intensity, and duration and are impacting new regions that are unprepared. These events, such as torrential rains, are causing floods and damaging crops and infrastructure – roads, rail, pipelines, and buildings. Cities, states, and entire countries are being battered and inundated resulting in disruption to many peoples’ lives as well as enormous economic losses. As bad as this is, it is going to get much worse by at least 10 to 20 times. Why?
Escalation in Weather Gyrations and Weird Behavior
Greenhouse gas emissions from humans have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere. The optical absorption of infrared heat has increased in the atmosphere which raises temperature, and thus water vapour content. This fuels more intense storms. The jet streams that guide these storms are slower and wavier and more fractured and cause our weather gyrations and weird behavior. Areas far north can get very warm, while areas far south can get very cold. Some areas get persistent drought. Then, the pattern can flip. The jet streams are much wavier in the north-south direction since the Arctic temperatures have warmed 5 to 8 times faster than the global average. This reduces the temperature difference between the Arctic and equator. Basic physics then forces the jets to slow and get wavier.
Why is the Arctic warming greatly amplified?
Because the spring land-based snow cover and the Arctic sea ice cover volume are both declining exponentially, the Arctic is darkening and thus absorbing more sunlight. The white snow and ice are being replaced by dark surfaces – the ocean and the tundra. The most detailed computer model on sea ice decline is a U.S. Naval Graduate School model, and it shows the sea ice cover could be gone by late summer in 2016. If this happens, the Arctic warming will rocket upwards, the jets will distort much more, and the extreme weather events will soar upwards in frequency, amplitude, and duration. Civilization will be hammered.
Extreme Weather in February 2014
Mother Nature is a deadly force. From Flooding to Drought, Waterspouts to Snow, these are a few events that have taken place over the past week or so. (Source: video)
Paul Beckwith is a part-time professor with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, Department of Geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology. His PhD research topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics. You can find Paul on Facebook.