They just don’t make 500-year weather events like they used to. Just look at how much of coastal North Carolina got hit by over 10 inches in the past 5 days, over 12 inches, and even over 15 inches.
Steve Scolnik of CapitalClimate has the story and the data:
3 PM Update: An additional 0.30″ has fallen in the last hour with visibility reduced to 1.5 miles in continuing heavy rain.
Original post: Excessive rainfall in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina from a tropical conveyor belt including the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole has broken the total rainfall record from Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The Floyd rainfall has been described by the National Weather Service as a once-in-500-year event.
The NWS reported this morning that the 19.66″ at Wilmington in the 3 days ending yesterday is the highest 3-day total precipitation in records that began in 1871. The 10.33″ on Monday is also the second highest all-time single day amount following Floyd’s 13.38″ on Sept. 15, 1999. The September total so far of 20.84″ through this morning is the second highest for the month behind 1999. Heavy rain is continuing at Wilmington, and an additional 0.45″ has fallen in the 6 hours ending at 2 pm EDT.
The map to the right (click to enlarge) from NWS shows North Carolina 7-day total precipitation ending at 8 am EDT this morning. The purple area extending from eastern South Carolina northward through the southeastern coast of North Carolina and to the Virginia border represents 10-15″ of precipitation, with a smaller area near the coast of 15-20″.
According to the NWS report, here is how the current event fits in with previous history:OBSERVED TOTALS... SUNDAY SEP 26 0.59 INCHES MONDAY SEP 27 10.33 INCHES TUESDAY SEP 28 1.96 INCHES WEDNESDAY SEP 29 7.37 INCHES THURSDAY SEP 30 0.41 INCHES (1-3 INCHES MORE POSSIBLE) 1-DAY ALL-TIME RECORDS... #1 13.38 INCHES 9/15/1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #2 10.33 INCHES 9/27/2010 (MONDAY'S EVENT) #3 9.56 INCHES 8/31/2006 (TROPICAL STORM ERNESTO) #4 9.52 INCHES 9/29/1938 #5 8.04 INCHES 8/18/1879 ("GREAT BEAUFORT HURRICANE") 2-DAY ALL-TIME RECORDS... #1 17.71 INCHES 9/15 & 9/16 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #2 14.73 INCHES 9/14 & 9/15 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #3 12.29 INCHES 9/27 & 9/28 2010 (MONDAY/TUESDAY'S EVENT) #4 11.87 INCHES 10/7 & 10/8 2005 (TROPICAL STORM TAMMY) #5 11.54 INCHES 7/7 & 7/8 1950 3-DAY ALL-TIME RECORDS... #1 19.66 INCHES 9/27 - 9/29 2010 #2 19.06 INCHES 9/14 - 9/16 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #3 17.71 INCHES 9/15 - 9/17 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #4 14.73 INCHES 9/13 - 9/15 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #5 13.44 INCHES 9/11 - 9/13 1984 (HURRICANE DIANA) 4-DAY ALL-TIME RECORDS... #1 20.25 INCHES 9/26 - 9/29 2010 #2 19.06 INCHES 9/14 - 9/17 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #2 19.06 INCHES 9/13 - 9/16 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #4 17.71 INCHES 9/15 - 9/18 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #5 14.73 INCHES 9/12 - 9/15 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) 5-DAY ALL-TIME RECORDS... #1 20.66 INCHES 9/26 - 9/29 2010 (ONGOING EVENT THROUGH 720 AM...) #2 19.06 INCHES 9/14 - 9/18 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #2 19.06 INCHES 9/13 - 9/17 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #2 19.06 INCHES 9/12 - 9/16 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) #5 17.71 INCHES 9/15 - 9/19 1999 (HURRICANE FLOYD) SEPTEMBER MONTHLY RAINFALL RECORDS... #1 23.41 INCHES 1999 (HURRICANES DENNIS & FLOYD) #2 20.84 INCHES 2010 (ONGOING EVENT THROUGH 720 AM...) #3 20.10 INCHES 1877 ("HURRICANE FOUR") #4 18.94 INCHES 1984 (HURRICANE DIANA) #5 16.93 INCHES 1924 ("HURRICANE FIVE" AND "TROP STORM EIGHT")
In June, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained the link between global warming and extreme deluges:
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 past 12 months have been the hottest on record, according to NASA. So perhaps it isn’t completely surprising that we are seeing these record-smashing deluges. But the number of these beyond-extreme events just in the United States alone ought to make people take notice:
- We had Tennessee’s 1000-year deluge aka Nashville’s ‘Katrina’.
- Capital Climate wrote about Oklahoma City Paralyzed By Flash Floods.
- The Northeast was hit by record global-warming-type deluge, which has links to the scientific literature.
- Weather Channel expert Stu Ostro discussed Georgia’s record-smashing global-warming-type deluge: “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.”
And, of course, another part of the world has been even more devastated by deluges and flooding, albeit while receiving only moderate attention in this country (see Juan Cole: The media’s failure to cover “the great Pakistani deluge” is “itself a security threat” to America).
Remember, we’ve only warmed about a degree Fahrenheit in the past half-century. We are on track to warm nearly 10 times that this century. In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet!
- Australian Scientists: Contrary to media reports, “our paper does not discount climate change as playing a role in this most recent drought, the ‘Big Dry’. In fact, there are indications that climate change has worsened this recent drought.”
- Preparing For Frankenstorms: “The most powerful low pressure system in 140 years of record keeping” slams the Southwest.
- In other UK news: “Rain like this happens once every 1,000 years”
- Global boiling: Freak storms on every continent
- Why the “never seen before” Fargo flooding is just what you’d expect from global warming, as Obama warns
- An amazing, though clearly little-known, scientific fact: We get more snow storms in warm years!
- UK Prime Minister on “weather extremes” and climate change
- President Obama explains the science behind climate change and extreme weather
- Hell and High Water hits Georgia