High Water: Aussie inland tsunami labelled 1-in-370 year event
“This is a situation of historic proportions,” said Victoria Koenig, public information officer with the Texas Forest Service, in a phone interview with AccuWeather.com Tuesday. “The fuels are so dry. The winds are astronomical. The behavior of the winds is a perplexing situation. It’s never been like this before.”
Koenig added, “When you put all the ingredients together, you’re getting close to having the ‘perfect fire storm‘.”
That’s Accuweather meteorologist Heather Buchman writing about “a never-before-seen wildfire situation in Texas has led to the scorching of nearly 1 million acres and destruction of hundreds of homes and buildings.
ClimateProgress recently wrote about the record drought hitting Texas, just as the Congressional delegation votes to deny climate change. It was clear in that post the unprecedented drought was setting the stage for a possible devastating wildfire, which, Buchman reports, is just what happened:
Texas is in the midst of one of the worst droughts, in terms of the depth and expanse of drought conditions, since the early 1900s.
Dan Byrd, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Miss., said, “This is an unprecedented drought situation [in terms of] how widespread it is and the depth of the drought. We haven’t seen anything like this for the state overall since the early 1900s.
Koenig commented, “It’s pretty phenomenal and historic. The entire state is involved in this. When you look at the size of Texas, from the panhandle to the coast, you have about 1,000 miles.”
According to the latest analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor on April 12, 2011, the entire state of Texas was experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions with most areas in a severe to exceptional drought.
If folks think it’s bad now, just keep doing nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (see “USGS on Dust-Bowlification: Drier conditions projected to accelerate dust storms in the U.S. Southwest” and “NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path”). A 2010 study found that virtually all of Texas will be at high or extreme risk of climate-induced water shortage and drought in 2050.
Back to Accuweather:
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there were 20 active fires in Texas as of Tuesday morning. The center also reported that the current active fires have burned approximately 930,360 acres and that additional aerial resources were being called in to help battle the blazes.
This image, courtesy of the Incident Information Center and Google, shows active wildfires across Texas as of early Tuesday, April 19, 2011.
The Wildcat fire near San Angelo has scorched an estimated 150,000 acres and was only 10 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, according to the Texas Forest Service.
Less scientifically, the AP had an amazing story:
N.L. Winter says that in his 106 years on the rolling plains of West Texas, he has never seen anything like the fires of the past week.The man known to friends and family as “Boss” saw three of the homes where he has lived burn in a vast wildfire that spread across his ranch and parts of four counties north of Abilene.
“It is the worst fire I’ve ever seen,” he told the Abilene Reporter-News.
So we’ve seen the hellish. You may recall the high water that hit Queensland in January — See “Deadly flash flood hits Australia,” which quoted a Reuters piece that opened, “Climate change has likely intensified the monsoon rains that have triggered record floods in Australia’s Queensland state, scientists said.”
Now ABC reports:
A hydrologist has told the Queensland flood inquiry that some parts of Toowoomba experienced a one-in-370-year rainfall event in January.
The inquiry has begun its regional hearings, taking evidence in Toowoomba where a super storm cell claimed two lives.
Now in its second week, the inquiry is trying to explain how and why a deadly wall of water went through the city and the Lockyer Valley with such devastating consequences.
Hydrologist Philip Jordan says the sheer volume of water that fell on the region on January 10 was the reason it flooded with such intensity, claiming 21 lives in total.
He says one gauge in Toowoomba received 96 millimetres in an hour, which he described as a one-in-370-year event.
Here is a stunning video of the flooding:
- Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water
- The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”; Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”