Thailand’s Great Flood Likely to Peak this Weekend and Damage One Quarter of Rice Crop of World’s Top Exporter
No, the main headline wasn’t about Thailand — it was about El Salvador (as is the picture). We’ve been seeing twin uber-deluges this month on opposite sides of the Earth, both spurred by warming waters, as meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters explains on his blog.
The Thai floods have gotten more attention, because of their epic nature — and global economic impact on rice prices (see below). So let’s start with El Salvador and Central America:
“I want to tell the world that El Salvador is going through one of the most dramatic disasters in its history,” President Mauricio Funes said on national radio and television Wednesday night, as he appealed for international aid. A week of torrential rains across Central America have triggered extreme floods and landslides that have killed 105 people, according to media reports. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have declared states of emergency due to the disaster. El Salvador and Guatemala have seen the worst flooding, with 34 and 38 people killed, respectively. Another 18 have died in Honduras, 13 in Nicaragua, and 5 in Costa Rica. The rains were due to a large area of low pressure that was moistened by the landfall of Tropical Depression 12-E near the Mexico/Guatemala border last week.
Contributing to the record-intensity rains were ocean temperatures off the coast of El Salvador that were 0.5 – 1°C above average during the first half of October, allowing more water vapor than usual to evaporate into the air. Over the past ten days, rainfall amounts of over a meter (39.4″) have fallen over a large area of southwest El Salvador (Figure 2.) At Huizucar, an astonishing 1.513 meters (4.96 feet) of rain fell in the past ten days.
Climatologist Kevin Trenberth explained the deluge-warming connection in an interview with Climate Progress last year:
I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.
The AFP reports that many in Central America do understand the connection between warming and deluging:
Officials have blamed the effects of global warming for the spate of deadly rains and flooding.
“Climate change is not something that is coming in the future, we are already suffering its effects,” said Raul Artiga with the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD).
Here’s a graphic of the “astonishing” amount of rain El Salvador has been hit by: