Climate

Northeast hit by record global-warming-type deluge

U.S. media misses the story, while “China spends big to counter severe weather caused by climate change”

It’s pretty remarkable that we are having record rainfall and record flooding in the cold season month of March. It’s much easier to set records in August, when there is much more moisture in the air available for record rains.

Photo detail

The Northeast has been walloped with record-smashing deluges and flooding.

I have called this type of rapid deluge, “global warming type” record rainfall, since it is one of the most basic predictions of climate science “” and it’s an impact that has already been documented to have started, as I’ll discuss.

Of course, in this country, you’ll be hard pressed to find any discussion of global climate change in connection with this deluge.  The Today Show ran 3 stories this morning and never mentioned climate change at all.   But is it too much to ask after so many in the media mislead the public into thinking that the record snow was somehow evidence against human-caused global warming?

Other countries don’t have a problem explaining to the public that extreme weather is already becoming common, just as scientists said it would (see “Must re-read statement from UK’s Royal Society and Met Office on the connection between global warming and extreme weather“).  Indeed, at the very same time all the U.S. records were being smashed, the UK’s Guardian reported that China is taking action to deal with warming-driven extreme weather:

China will tomorrow start ramping up preparations for typhoons, dust storms and other extreme weather disasters as part of a 10-year plan to predict and prevent the worst impacts of climate change….

China has a long history of devastating floods and droughts, but officials said the problems were intensifying.

“It is necessary to respond to the new situation under climate change to avoid and mitigate the losses caused by meteorological disasters,” said Gao Fengtao, deputy director of the state council’s legislative affairs office, as he unveiled the new policy.

In recent years, he said, disasters were characterised by “sudden occurrence, wider variety, greater intensity and higher frequency in the context of global warming”.

But in this country, as I’ve noted many times, the anti-science disinformers try to shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather.

Nonetheless, the great Nor’easter of 2010 would appear to easily qualify as a global-warming-type deluge.  As uber-meteorologist Jeff Masters noted in his post (quoted above), perhaps remarkably, it has occurred during March, when you wouldn’t normally expect such records to be set.  Stu Ostro, Senior Meteorologist at the Weather Channel, made a comparable point about Georgia’s devastating September rainstorms.  Of course, Ostro pointed out there was no way to know if global warming had “caused” the record floods, but

Nevertheless, there’s a straightforward connection in the way the changing climate “set the table” for what happened this September in Atlanta and elsewhere. It behooves us to understand not only theoretical expected increases in heavy precipitation (via relatively slow/linear changes in temperatures, evaporation, and atmospheric moisture) but also how changing circulation patterns are already squeezing out that moisture in extreme doses and affecting weather in other ways.

That’s why I use the term global-warming-type deluge — but only when a changing climate “set the table” for something that truly smashes through the record books.

Another remarkable feature of the storm was explained by Steve Scolnik of Capital Climate in his post, which lists all of the major records that were broken:

The NWS [National Weather Service] notes that this is now the 3rd episode of excessive rainfall in the region within the last 3 weeks, an unprecedented occurrence in recorded history.

In Providence, RI, yesterday’s rainfall total of 3.47″ nearly tripled the previous March 29 daily record of 1.19″ set in 1931. The 4.31″ measured so far today also smashes the old daily record of 2.57″.

Note:  In the AP photo at the top, an oil slick runs through the Pawtuxet River in Warwick, RI.

Jeff Masters has more of the records:

Record rains from a slow-moving and extremely wet Nor’easter have triggered historic flooding in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts, with several rivers exceeding their 100-year flood levels. The 16.32″ of rain that has fallen on Providence, Rhode Island, this month is the most rain recorded in any month, besting the previous record of 15.38″ set in October 2005. Blue Hill Observatory in SE Massachusetts also set a record for wettest month ever, with 18.79″ (previous record: 18.78″, August 1955.) Records extend back to 1905 and 1885 at the two sites. The Rhode Island all-time state record for heaviest precipitation in a month was smashed as well, thanks to the 19.62″ observed this March at North Kingstown. The old state record was 16.70″, set at North Foster in October 2005. Many locations in the Northeast recorded their wettest March ever, including New York City and Boston.

This was not one-day weather event over a small area.  This was a month-long regional event of staggering proportion.  Masters has a figure of “observed precipitation for the month of March” courtesy of NOAA:

How does one talk about this?  NPR ran a good interview with Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, back in February on the snowstorms (see “President Obama explains the science behind climate change and extreme weather“):

Mr. KEVIN TRENBERTH (Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research): The fact that the oceans are warmer now than they were, say, 30 years ago, means there’s about, on average, 4 percent more water vapor lurking around over the oceans than there was, say, in the 1970s.

JOYCE: Warmer water means more water vapor rises up into the air. And what goes up, must come down.

Mr. TRENBERTH: So one of the consequences of a warming ocean near a coastline like the East Coast and Washington, D.C., for instance, is that you can get dumped on with more snow, partly as a consequence of global warming.

Or, when it is warm enough, you get dumped on with more rain, partly as a consequence of global warming.  And it is getting warm (see ” Global cooling bites the dust: Hottest January followed by second hottest February. Now March is busting out“).

For completeness’ sake, I’ll quickly run through some of the literature.  Regular readers can skip the rest of this post.  You can find more here and there’s some terrific technical meteorological analysis here.

In 2004, the Journal of Hydrometeorology published an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center that found “Over the contiguous United States, precipitation, temperature, streamflow, and heavy and very heavy precipitation have increased during the twentieth century.”

They found (here) that over the course of the 20th century, the “Cold season (October through April),” saw a 16% increase in “heavy” precipitation events (roughly greater than 2 inches [when it comes as rain] in one day), and a 25% increase in “very heavy” precipitation events (roughly greater than 4 inches in one day)- and a 36% rise in “extreme” precipitation events (those in the 99.9% percentile “” 1 in 1000 events). This rise in extreme precipitation is precisely what is predicted by global warming models in the scientific literature.

In fact, the last few decades have seen rising extreme precipitation over the United States in the historical record, according to NCDC’s Climate Extremes Index (CEI):

An increasing trend in the area experiencing much above-normal proportion of heavy daily precipitation is observed from about 1950 to the present.

UPDATE:  Here is a plot of the percentage of this country (times two) with much greater than normal proportion of precipitation derived from extreme 1-day precipitation events (where extreme equals the highest tenth percentile of deluges, from NOAA):

CEI-4 2009

No surprise, then, that as a recent WWF post noted, U.S. Sees Wettest October on Record; Arkansas Records are Washed Away.

Even the Bush Administration in its must-read U.S. Climate Change Science Program report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate, acknowledged:

Many extremes and their associated impacts are now changing”¦. Heavy downpours have become more frequent and intense”¦.

It is well established through formal attribution studies that the global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases.”¦ The increase in heavy precipitation events is associated with an increase in water vapor, and the latter has been attributed to human-induced warming.

In the future, with continued global warming, heat waves and heavy downpours are very likely to further increase in frequency and intensity. Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity.

In short, get used to it.

And remember, this is all from about a 1°F warming in the last few decades.  We are on track to see nearly 10 times that over much of the United States on our current emissions path (see “Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!

In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

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54 Responses to Northeast hit by record global-warming-type deluge

  1. Pete Salazar says:

    Dr. Trenberth – “But warming means increased heat waves and drying that increases risk of drought and reduces snowpack and water resources, …

    [JR: Yes, dry areas will tend to get drier — and wherever and whenever droughts occur they will tend to be hotter and longer. At the same time, wet areas are likely to get wetter. That is why they call it climate change.]

  2. paulm says:

    mmm…2005 was a very hot year. Seems to be a connection there somewhere with this year. Can’t quite put my finger on it…..

    And there’s this also you mention elsewhere (below)…there seems to be a rude awakening happening. I bet within 3yrs the frequency and intensity of these sort of events will have converted the majority.

    Climate change is the new health and safety
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7535304/Climate-change-is-the-new-health-and-safety.html

    ‘Adapting Institutions to Climate Change’ the committee of experts recommended that every school, hosptial and business should have a legal duty to adapt to climate change. For example by putting in place flood defences and plans for water shortages.

    Chairman of the Royal Commission, said global warming is a real risk and could cause huge problems for Britain.

    He said all businesses and public bodies should have to carry out a “climate change adaptation test” in the same way as they currently conduct health and safety checks.

    “Any society confronted with those kind of dramatic changes to their climate would be very wise to take due attention to the risk that poses to society, infrastructure and people’s lives and begin to plan accordingly.

    …- people are going to get killed or injured by climate change and that is why it is important.”

  3. Pierre says:

    However, ironically, the Nat’l Assoc. of Insurance Commissioners took a major step back on climate risk disclosure!? http://www.naic.org/documents/committees_explen_climate_survey_032810.pdf

  4. Steven Goddard says:

    So what you are saying now is that weather is climate.

    BTW – the desert southwest is having an excellent extended ski season. Is that due to the extreme warmth and drought you are forecasting? Check out the spring ski conditions in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
    http://skipajarito.com/conditions.php
    BASE DEPTH (mid-mountain undisturbed) 86″

    Also, how is your Arctic “Death Spiral” coming along?

    [JR: Climate change changes the climate and that drives extreme weather. Get used to it. Arctic “Death Spiral” is, as explained, a rapidly downward loop-the-loop, but without much actual recover in volume occurring anymore. I expect the disinformers will continue to be stuck in their two-dimensional thinking whereas the people who understand climate science will focus on the ice thin-ness and dwindling volume. No saving the Arctic now, especially if we keep listening to the people you seem to believe in.]

  5. MapleLeaf says:

    That is an insane amount of rain, not to mention the very obvious fact that is was rain and not snow.

    My goodness, North Kingston received as much rain in one month as we receive in my hometown in an entire year!

  6. MarkB says:

    Goddard constructs a strawman:

    “So what you are saying now is that weather is climate. ”

    What Joe said:

    “Of course, Ostro pointed out there was no way to know if global warming had “caused” the record floods”

    …but it’s definitely a few data points and an example of the long-term trend…

    http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/cei/dk-step4.03-05.gif

    An increase in extreme precipitation events is both predicted and observed.

    …and while you’re cherry-picking snowpack data points…

    http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/cgibin/wygraph-multi.pl?state=CO&wateryear=2010&stationidname=06J09S-RABBIT+EARS

  7. David B. Benson says:

    I posted this link on an earlier thread, but somehow it seems to have disappeared.

    A simple model based on the physics provides a decent prediction of the global temperature of the 2010s:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/unforced-variations-3/comment-page-12/#comment-168530
    Considerably warmer, so there will be many more such megadownpours.

  8. MapleLeaf says:

    Steven Goddard @3, actually read the article and carefully. Yes, we know that one should not attribute single events to AGW. A side note, that does not stop you or Anthony from frequently making that mistake.

    But there is a trend in heavy rainfall events here. Did you miss that critical part? Or the part where it is stated that we should expect more events like this in the future. In fact, research in reputable journal papers has already established that heavy rainfall events around the globe are on the increase.

    And the long term trend of MY ice in the Arctic is still markedly down. You just never learn do you? Also, by referring to current Arctic ice extent (of very thin and young ice), you are making the very mistake that you are accusing others of. Please make up your mind. Is it long term trends or Anthony’s pick of the day?

    And also look at the record global AMSU temperatures for March, and in fact the near record values for DJF. According to NASA GISS the planet just had the second warmest DFJ on record and the long term trend in DJF (and annual) temps is UP.

    Wow, you guys are getting desperate. Next you’ll be citing temps for individual stations as evidence of “global cooling.” Oh hang on, those in denial have already done that. OK, I really do not know where you guys go from here, b/c you are already scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  9. paulm says:

    Steven Goddard #4, No we’re saying Climate is Weather.

  10. Don Penim says:

    Meanwhile, California is experiencing very COLD stormy weather this week with snow expected on the hills around both the Los Angeles and San Francisco urban areas.

    Forecasters say a southward drift in the jet stream will continue to drive an unseasonably cold low-pressure system through the state this week.

    “Unseasonably cold air aloft will bring snow levels and/or wet bulb zero levels to 2000 feet or lower throughout NorCal.”

    “…it’s possible that snow levels could even drop as low as 1500-2000 feet in Southern California”

    Is this “climate change” or “weather”?

    http://weatherwest.com/current_weather/?p=487

  11. Steven Goddard says:

    NCDC shows no increase in US precipitation over the last 30 years. Eight of the last eleven years have been below the mean.
    http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddw82wws_514fv7qgxgg

    [JR: Duh! Dry areas are getting drier and wet areas are getting wetter. The issue isn’t the mean over 2% of the globe. NCDC shows an increase in extreme precipitation (click here), which is it what the point of this post.]

  12. catman306 says:

    Yes, these sorts of extreme weather events, caused by greenhouse warming were predicted around 1990. It was thought then that the effects of global warming would manifest as extreme weather events and as desertification of vast areas.

    Remember that if a location gets 40 inches of rain and that rain falls at a rate of about 1 inch per week, it probably will be lush with vegetation. But if that 40 inches falls as two 20 inch deluges that wash everything away in a flood, when not flooded, that area will appear dry and barren, like a desert. Not only do you have to get the right amount of rain, you also have to get it at the right times. Imagine the severity of this problem when applied to agriculture.

  13. Wit's End says:

    Yes Catman…

    Glub…glub…glub…

    Hello where are you Leif with your analysis of the energy increase into the weather systems??? That would seem pertinent.

  14. David says:

    The Weather Channel is running a climate change special tonight on the skepticism among TV forecasters. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s only going to further confuse people and tend to give the skeptics a platform to disinform the public. Looking at the guests, it appears there will be two hard-core denier types (Bob Breck and James Spann) among the four. What will probably happen is the hard-core deniers will overwhelm the viewer with BS that the other meteorologists will be unable to counter because they aren’t climate experts.

    Steve @ 11,

    You claim there is no increase, but the image you linked to shows a trend of 0.07″/decade. That might sound insignificant, but when you consider it’s purporting to express the average rainfall of a vast landmass consisting of millions of square miles, even a little change could be significant – especially when you consider that some areas are drier and others wetter.

    And it’s funny that you would accuse Joe of confounding weather and climate, when that’s what you deniers do everyday – just look at the Watts Up With That site, for instance. Right now, he’s going on about how the Arctic sea ice is just a little bit below normal. Somehow ice being “only” a bit below the mean is somehow evidence that climate change isn’t happening, notwithstanding the fact that Watts’ favorite satellite temperature analysis shows current temperatures at record breaking levels.

  15. Ronald says:

    Not to understate things, but the amount of precipitation is very important. I live in Minnesota and on the eastern side of the state, we get about 30 inches of precipitation a year. Then if you follow a precipitation map all the way to western South Dakota, the precipitation drops to about 5 to 10 inches a year. The two areas a very different in the kind of plants that grow and also that determined the population density of those areas.
    One of the fears I have is that whatever it’s called; Global Warming or Climate Change, it’ll turn Minnesota into South Dakota. (Sorry South Dakota.)

    What’s weird this year here is that we didn’t get any snow in March. Usually March is our snowiest month because the air could carry more water than in colder January, but all the precipitation we got this year in March came as rain.

  16. Leif says:

    Just how much more moisture in the atmosphere does 4% represent? About 6 weeks ago on CP we were confronted with the same question. My estimate was about the volume of Lake Superior. comment #3.

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/20/president-obama-explains-the-science-behind-climate-change-and-extreme-weather-climatologist-kevin-trenberth-and-meteorologist-jeff-masters-on-npr/

    A commenter came back, johna, #14, with an answer of about 1.5 times the volume of Lake Superior. I would quickly point out that that I am not a climate scientist nor to my knowledge is johna, which should catapult us both to the top of the deniers reference list but others should take our efforts with a grain of salt and maybe run the numbers themselves. Needles to say even if we are in the ball park we are looking at a whole lot of water that needs to come back out of the sky as rain but even snow in the winter when it is cold outside.

  17. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    A fortnight ago here in Wales we ended a sharp drought with nightly frosts that, despite still having snow patches up on the tops was hard enough to dry up the mountains’ winter-time springs (that normally faded in June).
    Overnight we switched into a milder and increasingly wet phase to the point of waterlogging the fields.
    Then today the temperature dropped and we’ve had snow, sleet and hail coming in on high winds – on the day that is traditionally the first day of lambing round here.
    Fortunately all of our ‘nursery’ fields have the shelter of woods and/or dry stone walls, so the many early lambs should survive the wet-&-windchill ok. Those lambing out on the open mountain pastures are both higher and lacking shelter.

    I hope the above may illustrate the utter disruption of the traditional seasons that we used to rely on in Britain. They are gone. And the problems resulting are intensifying by the year.

    From this perspective I find the self-censorship of those who repeat the cliche that “no single event can be blamed on global warming” really frustrating.
    At the least one could say that “No single event can be stated definitively as originating either in nature or in global warming.”
    At the best, it can be observed that with the massive GHG & feedback forcings now measurable, none of the weather we are seeing is natural, in fact it is increasingly unnatural, since the entire evolution of every weather system is distorted by those forcings.

    Moreover, if a region has one hundred-year extreme weather event, followed within a few years by say five more, shouldn’t five of the six be attributed to GW with a confidence factor to account the likelyhood of nature pulling such a stunt ?

    Regards,

    Lewis

  18. June R says:

    Steven Goddard #11, according to the Bush administration report Joe linked above (p.46) the LIGHT and AVERAGE precipitation events haven’t changed significantly, but HEAVY precipitation events have increased.

    “…there has been little change or decrease in the frequency of light and average precipitation days (Easterling et al., 2000; Groisman et al.,2004, 2005) during the last 30 years, while heavy precipitation frequencies have increased (Sun and Groisman, 2004). For example, the amount of precipitation falling in the heaviest
    1% of rain events increased by 20% during the 20th century, while total precipitation increased by 7% (Groisman et al., 2004).”

  19. MarkB says:

    Re: Goddard (#11),

    Moving the goalposts again, I see. We were talking about extreme precipitation events, but you’re helping to make Joe’s point.

  20. Doug Bostrom says:

    Steven, you need to move forward from your halcyon days of 2007, join the rest of us in 2010.

    It’s become obvious that our obsession with ice extent is increasingly irrelevant and should be superseded with the message conveyed by ice volume. That’s exactly according to expectations, of course; nobody has said the Arctic will be free of ice in winter but we can certainly expect and indeed are seeing more severe excursions from the long term norm in late summer and early fall. Thin ice melts more quickly, not exactly rocket science but hard to understand for some few of us, apparently.

  21. Sou says:

    My sympathy to those in the north east USA who’ve been getting rain and floods.

    We’ve been getting more than our share of extreme events with record floods in Queensland this year covering an area bigger than the state of Victoria (or the UK), following major flooding last year. This month, record torrential rain and hail events in Melbourne and Perth and surrounding areas has kept the insurance companies busy.

    CSIRO and BoM recently released this joint statement: http://www.csiro.au/files/files/pvfo.pdf

    Even seemingly normal weather down here has been breaking records, with so far 113 consecutive days in Melbourne with the maximum 20C or more and it’s not over yet. The previous record was 78 consecutive days in 2000-01. Hobart has also had similar record broken (17C).
    http://www.bom.gov.au/announcements/media_releases/ho/20100319.shtml

    (Steven Goddard at #4 is the same person who recently wrote an article on his favourite website, trying to kid readers that comments relating to a 20th Century Fox fictional film were instead predictions of climate for the UK. And was successful going by the responses. He’s a mischievous bloke with a credulous following.)

  22. Roger says:

    Massachusetts Senator John Kerry commented several months ago that citizens should be very angry about the lack of progress on the climate and energy issue. He insists that he is going as far as the political will allows. But with the extensive misinformation campaigns, there’s a logjam in that the average citizen is confused, and in need of education.

    So why doesn’t Senator Kerry use his request for federal disaster aid as a teaching opportunity? He could explain that the recent series of heavy precipitation events are consistent with what has been predicted with climate change. Instead, while touring areas in the state to observe firsthand the flood damage, he remains mute on the real causitive factor, even though he insists he’s serious about getting climate legislation passed.

    Governor Patrick of Massachusetts has been a proponent of many green initiatives, but he, too, lacks the courage to say the words climate change in the face of this unprecendented deluge.

    I have given up on meteorologists making the connection. As a resident of MA, however, dealing with a flooded basement AGAIN, I am disappointed with both Kerry and Patrick that they will not muster the moral fortitude to inform their constituents that what we are experiencing is, in all likelihood, a manifestation of climate change.

  23. catman306 says:

    Someone will want to comment on this Discovery News story:

    WHY EARLY EARTH DIDN’T FREEZE
    A new theory emerges to explain how early Earth was able to host liquid oceans despite a weak sun.

    (Old theory involves greenhouse gases.)

    http://news.discovery.com/earth/early-earth-sun-liquid-oceans.html

    [JR: 3.8 billion years ago? People are still attacking temp reconstructions from last year!]

  24. prokaryote says:

    Last week we had almost summer temperature (up to 25C).

    Today’s EU weather (google translation)

    A cold snap with heavy snow, Nord Europe for traffic chaos and power cuts in care. In Deutschland war es vielerorts sehr stürmisch. In Germany it was often very stormy. Für die Ostertage rechnen Meteorologen mit Regen und Kälte – stellenweise soll es sogar Frost und Schnee geben. For the Easter forecasters expect rain and cold – in places it is frost and snow even give.

    London – In großen Teilen Großbritanniens hat es an diesem Mittwoch bei Temperaturen um den Gefrierpunkt den zweiten Tag in Folge geschneit. London – In large parts of Britain, it snowed this Wednesday at temperatures around freezing for the second day in succession. Heftige Schnee- und Regenfälle sowie starker Wind führten zu Störungen im Straßen-, Zug- und Schiffsverkehr. Heavy snow and rains and strong winds led to disruptions in road, train and ship traffic. In Schottland waren fast 20.000 Haushalte ohne Strom, in Nordirland sogar mehr als 45.000. In Scotland, almost 20,000 households without electricity in Ireland, even more than 45,000.

    Bei Londonderry in Nordirland wurden mehr als 300 Menschen aus ihren Fahrzeugen gerettet, die in der Nacht im Schnee steckengeblieben waren. In Londonderry in Northern Ireland more than 300 people were rescued from their vehicles that were stuck in the snow at night. Im schottischen Edinburgh waren nach Überschwemmungen und Erdrutschen mehrere Bahnlinien unterbrochen. In Scotland, Edinburgh to floods and landslides several railway lines were interrupted.
    http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.spiegel.de%2Fpanorama%2F0%2C1518%2C686795%2C00.html&sl=de&tl=en&hl=&ie=UTF-8

  25. Mike says:

    While it is true that one cannot proof AGW caused a specific weather event, it may be possible to estimate the probability. Stott et al did this for the 2003 summer heat wave in Europe (see below). It would be interesting to see if it is possible to make a similar calculation for the 2010 New England Spring floods.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v432/n7017/full/nature03089.html

    Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003
    Peter A. Stott1, D. A. Stone, & M. R. Allen,
    Nature 432, 610-614 (2 December 2004)

    “Using a threshold for mean summer temperature that was exceeded in 2003, but in no other year since the start of the instrumental record in 1851, we estimate it is very likely (confidence level >90%) that human influence has at least doubled the risk of a heatwave exceeding this threshold magnitude.”

    This work took several months to do and several more before it was peer reviewed and published. It is possible to get rapid estimates of this kind for media release during or soon after such events?

  26. Rick C says:

    Perhaps Earth has been infected with malaria and it’s experiencing alternating chills and fevers as a result.

  27. prokaryote says:

    25#If you put it that way, nice analogy Earth – Human, greenhouse gases cause a morbid fever.
    And the doctor says:”Stop with the smoking habit to prevent the worst.”

  28. Leif says:

    Wit’s End, #13: How can I deny the request of a lady.
    Global warming and energy accumulation.
    When looking at global warming of ~ 1C over the course of fifty years it is easy to say as the Anti -Science folks do, “So what is the big deal.” A little warmer, great! The problem arises when we look at the energy to raise the earth and ~700 meters of ocean that 1C. imagine a huge pot of water that you build a fire under it and then watch the temperature rise. It is going to take a long time to get a degree or two response or conversely a big fire. Now imagine a pot the size of all the oceans of the world from pole to pole and a third of a mile deep. It is going to take one big mother of a fire to heat that puppy ~1C or 2F don’t you think. How big? Guess what, science tells us. We have been turning up the fire a bit every day starting from a steady state at the beginning of the industrial revolution to now where we are adding the total power out-put of ~190,000 nuclear power plants per day directly into the oceans of the world and adding about 10 new plants a day every day. THAT is how much. Now that energy does not just sit there an a taste warmer water, NO that is potential energy. Think of a battery that you are charging and can be, in fact will be, discharged. Energy wants to equilibrate. It is THE LAW. Weather is earth trying to balance to a steady state from unequal heating of the sun. And now the added energy of 190,00+ nuke plants. Remember what happened to Katrina when she passed over a warm spot in the gulf? Bingo, cat. 5, just like that. What happens during an El Nino? Extra rain fall, disrupted jet streams and weather patterns, less snow fall in the Pacific North West, unseasonable warmth, the list goes on. Effects can carry across the US and even across the atlantic to Europe and Africa. How much temperature difference are we talking about with these two examples? You guessed it. A couple of degrees above normal.

    So deniers, still think a degree or two is no big deal?

  29. Everett Rowdy says:

    From the 2007 Synthesis Report of the IPCC:

    Runoff is projected with high confidence to increase by 10 to 40% by mid-century at higher latitudes and in some wet tropical areas, including populous areas in East and South-East Asia, and decrease by 10 to 30% over some dry regions at mid-latitudes and dry tropics, due to decreases in rainfall and higher rates of evapotranspiration. There is also high confidence that many semi-arid areas (e.g. the Mediterranean Basin, western United States, southern Africa and north-eastern Brazil) will suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change….

    Available research suggests a significant future increase in heavy rainfall events in many regions, including some in which the mean rainfall is projected to decrease. The resulting increased flood risk poses challenges to society, physical infrastructure and water quality. It is likely that up to 20% of the world population will live in areas where river flood potential could increase by the 2080s. Increases in the frequency and severity of floods and droughts are projected to adversely affect sustainable development….

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/mains3-3-1.html

    Scroll to the bottom: they have a nice map synthesizing projections (with qualifiers in the print below).

  30. climateprogressive says:

    Rick (#25) – nice analogy!

    It seems pretty plain that severe rain events where totals are dependent on the moisture levels within the airmass (e.g. warm air advection from sea to land, precipitation set off by orographic lift) are increasing in their frequency. Over here in the UK we had a severe event back last November: warm conveyors from the Atlantic dumping their rain as they rise over the western mountains are a familiar part of our weather but the flooding that hit the Lake District, arising from such a setup, was exceptional. How many exceptional events have to occur before the naysayers wake up? How many have to die or lose their homes? How many billions have to be paid out by the insurance sector? Climate change is going to be the most costly misadventure in the history of humanity.

  31. Van says:

    One thing I’ve noticed is that here in Richmond, Va for the past couple of summers when we get a thunderstorm they tend to drop huge amounts of rain all at once. It’s just like having a giant bucket of water dumped on you. Can be very dangerous if you’re driving during it and causes a lot of local street flooding.

  32. PSU Grad says:

    While weather is clearly not climate, climate just as clearly manifests itself through weather. Which has me wondering…..

    In January we had a brief cold snap in Pennsylvania and the well-known snowstorms in February that supposedly “proved” that global warming was just so much hooey (technical term).

    But now, in March, 27 of 31 days (87%) were above normal, some of them very much above normal. And April will apparently start off the same. Now I grant that weather is not climate, and my town occupies just a tiny spot on this earth, but that’s not my concern. My concern is as follows: If Neil Cavuto has Joe Romm on his show due to a localized cold snap, and if all the deniers go into overdrive over a couple of snowstorms, why am I now hearing crickets after a month in which 87% of the days had above normal temperatures? I’ll grant it’s not as dramatic as a 20 inch snowstorm, or even a monster rain storm, but still…….

  33. peter whitehead says:

    Last two days of march have seen horrific snow event in scotland and northern ireland due to intense low pressure system. not seasonally ‘normal’ – snow at Easter in the UK is not unusual, but this is extreme.

  34. Wit's End says:

    Thank you Leif!

    Two summers ago when I became concerned about dying trees I called some state agencies to inquire about the drought. They claimed there was no drought even though we had had weeks with no rain, because the only way the measure drought is by the level of water in the reservoirs. So if we get less frequent, but heavier downpours, as far as the state of New Jersey is concerned, there is no drought.

    I was writing about the issue of attributing weather events to climate change early this morning on my blog and the question that arose in my mind was, if there is an earthquake is it attributed to plate tectonics? Pretty much, in fact, isn’t every earthquake attributed to plate tectonics (up until the ice sheets melt and then we can blame the displacement of the weight).

    So along those lines I think we should attribute EVERY weather event to climate change, since humans have displaced natural forcings and our activities are now what is dictating climate conditions and the weather that results.

    The End.

  35. Wit's End says:

    Sorry one more thing. When people complain that legislation to rein in emissions will be too expensive, this link should be made:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_severe_weather

  36. Chris Dudley says:

    It seems to me that our system of jurisprudence gets in the way of taking corrective action. Many many cases where smokers have sued tobacco companies for their illness have been dismissed because it can’t be proved with certainty that smoking caused an individual illness even when it is certain that smoking causes an increase in the incidence of the illness. Instead we have a system where the tobacco companies are kept in business through a settlement with states’ AGs which brings revenues to the states but does not make the business too expensive to conduct.

    It seems equally clear that the efforts of oil and coal companies to forestall efforts to address the cause of global warming is costing lives and property damage. But, we can’t pin anyone death on them so there is no grounds to use the power of the courts to end their activities. Instead we get more mining, more drilling and even greater damage as our politicians try to curry favor with this unstoppable evil.

    Nevertheless, it seems to me that we should be developing ways to count the cost. We need to go beyond saying global-warming-type deluge to saying what fraction of flood damage, economic disruption from snow storms, deaths in storms and heat waves and crop failures are owing to the coal, oil and gas lobbies’ efforts to delay action. Sometime, perhaps already or perhaps soon, the annual cost will exceed the annual profits of these industries and it will be clear that they cannot make any adequate compensation for their misdeeds.

    Already these industries are receiving a government bailout each time a disaster is declared. Let us count the cost.

  37. catman306 says:

    WIts End wrote: ‘So along those lines I think we should attribute EVERY weather event to climate change’

    to make a slight correction: (which I think you meant)

    ‘So along those lines I think we should attribute every EXTREME weather event to climate change’
    There was weather and climate before there were humans.

    “climate is what you expect, weather is what you get’

    We probably could use some good definitions for:
    extreme weather event
    draught
    flood
    etc:

    I read a post a few years ago from someone who lived in San Diego where the weather was beautiful every day for years on end, but he was complaining about the ‘beautiful, boring weather, day after day’. No rain, highs in the low 80s, pleasant evenings. Even beautiful, fair weather, if it continues for way too long, might be considered an ‘extreme weather event’.

    [JR: I have tried to reserve this “global warming type” event for the extreme record-busting ones, especially ones that are extended in time and regional coverage, like Australia’s “Big Dry.”]

  38. Wit's End says:

    Hey, how about we settle on EVERY RECORD-BREAKING weather event!?

  39. Leif says:

    climateprogressive, #30: “How many billions have to be paid out by the insurance sector?” Remember folks this money is a redistribution of wealth. The money is taken from areas that normally do not suffer from weather damage but some times do, so you contribute to a pot to protect yourself. Insurance companies operate at a profit, unlike the Government. When mega-disasters happen insurance companies are pushed to the breaking point and sometimes even over. Those that manage to survive are forced to raise the rates of all of us to prepare for the next episode.

    At some point will insurance companies just cop out? Only insure folks in ever shrinking “safety zones?” Will people, unable to pay ever increasing premiums, be forced to take their chances? Will large segments of once habitable land be force to be evacuated and reclaimed by nature? Will governments be forced to step up to the plate with large public works projects to protect valuable infrastructure? Will building codes be enhanced to account for increased peril? Will all this and more cost you more money? I believe it is safe to say with some confidence, YES, to all of the above.

  40. Dean G. says:

    I know people around Boston (I’m one of them) who have never had water in their basement, and who now have faced two floods in two weeks. Everyone I know is planning to get sump pumps, which they’ve never before needed. We all believe that this rain is, in fact, a product of that change; and that we will see more of it as a result.

    So lots of folks up this way agree with you, Joe, and are acting accordingly, in a very practical way. But you deniers, I urge you to please be consistent and don’t install a sump pump. Waste of money for a freak storm that we won’t see again, right? And … good luck with that!

  41. Chris Dudley says:

    Lief (#39),

    In the US flood insurance is handled by the government. It is done this way because we are trying to eliminate the need for flood insurance. Essentially, in exchange for allowing property values to have some continuity via insurance on existing property, local governments agree to pass zoning ordinances that prevent new building in flood zones. In principle, after a few generations, regions susceptible to flood won’t have any buildings on them and they will be used in ways that are robust to flooding. Warming means that we need to redraw the flood risk maps and start over on zoning.

  42. Wit's End says:

    Just wait, the insurance companies will stop homeowner’s policies that cover tree damage, ditto for cars.

  43. Dean says:

    How many more “100 year floods” are we going to have this decade?

  44. dhogaza says:

    David sez:

    And it’s funny that you would accuse Joe of confounding weather and climate, when that’s what you deniers do everyday – just look at the Watts Up With That site, for instance. Right now, he’s going on about how the Arctic sea ice is just a little bit below normal.

    To be more specific, the “he” in the last sentence is Steven Goddard himself, doing his annual winter dance pointing to the fact that gee, there’s ice in winter, thus arctic ice isn’t dminishing.

  45. dhogaza says:

    I know people around Boston (I’m one of them) who have never had water in their basement, and who now have faced two floods in two weeks. Everyone I know is planning to get sump pumps, which they’ve never before needed. We all believe that this rain is, in fact, a product of that change; and that we will see more of it as a result.

    I’m heading out there on Saturday, and the friend I’m staying with’s girl friend’s basement was flooded in that first round of wetness y’all had out there. She’d never had that happen before, apparently lost quite a bit of stuff in the basement.

  46. Kim Falcone says:

    I live in southern RI, on the coast. Our home is not optimally situated. It lies on a downhill slope with an asphalt parking lot to the east and south sides, and a dirt lot to the north, across the road from our property. The road we live on is considered rural so the town of S. Kingstown has not installed storm drains. Usually, when we get a heavy rain, the northeast corner of the basement gets a bit wet, but easy to clean up with towels. We do get some ponding in the back yard during these types of rains as well, but it always recedes quickly. Despite all these factors, our home is in a prime location for a flooded basement,wouldn’t you agree? Well, in the 20 years we’ve lived here, not once-except for the time our washer hose let go-has a storm of any severity, caused our basement to flood the way it is flooding right now. It’s been two days since the rain stopped and the ground water is still coming in. This is most certainly an extreme weather event that came without warning. We NEVER have had floods like this.
    It doesn’t take a climate scientist to figure out that climate change has caused this event. All it takes is common sense. (but whoever accused a denier with an agenda of having that.)

  47. MapleLeaf says:

    Kim @46,

    Really sorry to hear about the flooding. I agree with what you said, except:

    “This is most certainly an extreme weather event that came without warning.”

    The NWS did have warnings out for heavy rain and flooding, well in advance of the storm’s arrival, did they not?

  48. Doug Bostrom says:

    PSU Grad says: April 1, 2010 at 8:55 am

    “…why am I now hearing crickets after a month in which 87% of the days had above normal temperatures?”

    Weather knows nothing of “message discipline.” As an unreliable ally of rejectionists, when weather loses the plot and fails to supply talking points it is left to speak entirely for itself.

    Statistically speaking it looks as though the PR folks running the rejectionist show are going to need to find a substitute for weather.

  49. Kim Falcone says:

    To Maple leaf,

    I meant the dramatic flooding event came without warning, not the rain event. We obviously were expecting the rain.

  50. MapleLeaf says:

    Hi Kim,

    Aah, that makes sense. Hope the water levels drop soon and you can start cleaning up. Best of luck.

  51. sesli says:

    Thank you for the information your provide.

  52. PurpleOzone says:

    The weather has been different in New Hampshire since the great Mother’s Day Flood of 2006. I’ve lost track of how many floods we’ve had since.

    NH floods used to be due to spring rain on melting snow. Or the great 1938 hurricane. Never from plain rain storms, even nor-easters, not severe floods in much of the state. Major roads closed, the Suncook river moved, people taken out of their houses on boats! the town of Raymond had so many roads cut off people couldn’t get home — and the floods just keep coming. I’ve lost count of the total, but March had 3 severe floods.

    I don’t go out in the rain. I don’t like driving when I can barely make out the tail lights of the car ahead of me, and can’t change lanes on a freeway because I don’t know if there’s a car beside me. We did NOT have rain like that; I walked to school .9 of a mile in all weather. My mother never once ‘rescued’ me from bad weather. We had raincoats, and umbrellas, but we didn’t get drowned. A couple of years ago, the rains tore out the sidewalks on the hilly road I walked up. For the first time ever. My father is 98 and confirmed the change in weather.

    We are now on our fourth year of this damn rain. Last year it rained in June, not as heavy, but for 40 days straight. This is definitely a major shift in the weather. There have been too many freak storms.

    People are yelling for the power lines to be buried. (My power went out this a.m., briefly, but exactly when the plumber was here to repair my water heater; this because the power company is having to fix stuff after the storm). People have no idea how much burying lines costs. Some of our towns and cities will HAVE to put in water diversion around their roads.

    I am angry about the deniers, especially those who are funding nonsense. I’ll restrain myself from ranting because I’ll use words that Joe won’t allow.

  53. Leif says:

    We have just had an unusually vigorous spring storm out here in the NW. Two feet of fresh snow in the mountains. Sorely needed and no one is complaining I hasten to add. 80 mph winds out on the coast. Just a little out of place.

  54. Bob Wallace says:

    Weather Underground has a good page on extreme weather and climate change.

    http://www.wunderground.com/climate/extreme.asp

    Look down the page for a graph of 1910-2008 annual extreme one day precipitation events. It’s very clear that the frequency of major water dumps is increasing.

    (If anyone can find the direct link to the NOAA page where this graph lives, I would appreciate it. I spent quite a bit of time looking and didn’t find the magic door.)