Fueled by fossil fuel pollution, an unprecedented, freak “land hurricane” swept through the continental United States, leaving a path of devastation from Saskatchewan to Texas — while the Republican Party has been taken over by a hurricane of science denial. Our destabilized climate system, supercharged with billions of tons of manmade global warming pollution, is unlike anything in the historical record. “Welcome to the Land of 10,000 Weather Extremes,” Minnesota meteorologist Paul Douglas gasped. “The storm is huge,” Peter Kimbell, emergency preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada, said. “Much of North America is being affected by this storm. It’s covering millions of square kilometers.” Even the right-wing Anthony Watts called this storm — centered in Wisconsin — a “subtropical/tropically oriented monster.” Douglas found intensity of the “weather bomb” something “hard to fathom”:
Yesterday a rapidly intensifying storm, a “bomb”, spun up directly over the MN Arrowhead, around mid afternoon a central pressure of 953 millibars was observed near Orr. That’s 28.14″ of mercury. Bigfork, MN reported 955 mb, about 28.22″ of mercury. The final (official) number may be closer to 28.20-28.22″, but at some point the number becomes academic. What is pretty much certain is that Tuesday’s incredible storm marks a new record for the lowest atmospheric pressure ever observed over the continental USA. That’s a lower air pressure than most hurricanes, which is hard to fathom.
The storm front — also dubbed the “Chiclone” for the bizarreness of having a cyclone-like system over Chicago — drew its power from a sharp temperature contrast between record warmth in the southeastern United States and average cold in the north. Thus this record stormfront, though it exhibited hurricane-like power, is unlike actual hurricanes that derive their power directly from heat trapped in the ocean.
In an exclusive interview with the Wonk Room, Douglas — a nationally renowned meteorologist from Minnesota — discussed this “unprecedented, historic storm” and the consequences for our nation of our artificially altered climate. “We have to get acclimated mentally and physically for this kind of world where these kinds of supercharged storms are more frequent,” he said, as the atmosphere continues to warm. When asked about the numerous conservative global warming deniers in his own state — gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, incumbent Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Congressional candidates Chip Cravaack and Randy Demmer — and across the nation, Douglas said he was “ashamed” of the Grand Old Party for ignoring the “writing on the wall”:
I’m a recovering Republican, and I don’t recognize my party any more. I’m ashamed so many Republicans don’t recognize the science. The writing is on the wall.
When asked if reducing global warming pollution is a moral challenge and not just an economic debate, he agreed strongly:
My dad was the biggest Republican that ever walked the earth. He always said: “Actions have consequences.” To pretend that a 38 percent increase in greenhouse gases isn’t going to have any impact, that we can have our cake and eat it too, and smear it all over our face, and maybe have our grandchildren deal with the hangover, I think it is immoral.
Douglas said that this election has “been corrupted with money,” as the “energy lobby is obviously well-funded and powerful, and nobody wants to make waves.”
Wunderground puts the stormfront into more historical context; there have been comparable storms along the Atlantic coast, but never in the Midwest. They also remind us that a less-powerful storm in January shattered low-pressure records in the Southwest.