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Hell and High Water: “Great Texas Drought” drives record wildfires as record deluge drives Mississippi floods

By Joe Romm  

"Hell and High Water: “Great Texas Drought” drives record wildfires as record deluge drives Mississippi floods"

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NOAA reports “April 2011: historic U.S. extremes in rains, floods, tornadoes, and fires”

Floodwaters from the Mississippi River inundate ...

NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center:  “April was a month of historic climate extremes across much of the United States, including: record breaking precipitation that resulted in historic flooding; recurrent violent weather systems that broke records for tornado and severe weather outbreaks; and wildfire activity that scorched more than twice the area of any April this century.”

The NCDC report for April reads like something out of a book titled … oh, I don’t know, Hell and High Water.

Multiple scientific studies find that indeed the weather has become more extreme, as expected, and that it is extremely likely that humans are a contributing cause (see “Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment” and links therein).

Equally important, human-caused climate change is exacerbating the extreme events we would normally experience — by making deluges more intense (because of the extra water vapor in the atmosphere) and by making droughts hotter.

All extreme weather events are now subject to human influence,” said Dr. Peter Gleick, a climate & water scientist and president of the Pacific Institute, at a Capitol Hill briefing on Monday organized by the American Meteorological Society. “We are loading the dice and painting higher numbers on them.”

As the reinsurer Munich Re put in in September, “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”

The staggering reality of the Mississippi flooding has consumed most of the extreme weather news, otherwise the news stories would be all about how a “record breaking 1.79 million acres burned across the country during the month”:

http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/fire/2011/04/apr2011_wildfirecount.png

Back in mid-april I reported how an “unprecedented drought” is driving “never-before-seen wildfire situation in Texas.” Now meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters reports today at Weather Underground that the “Great Texas drought of 2011 intensifies“:

April 2011 was the 5th driest and 5th hottest April in Texas history, going back 117 years. Exceptionally dry conditions have parched the soil and vegetation in Texas, which recorded precipitation of just 1.68 inches (43 mm,) on average, since February 1st. This is easily its driest February-April period on record for the state, nearly an inch less than the previous record (2.56 inches or 65 mm, Feb – Apr 1996.) The six-month period November 2010 – April 2011 was the 2nd driest such period on record. Based on the U.S. Drought Monitor, 94 percent of Texas is in severe to exceptional drought.

As a result of the great drought, an all-time April record of 1.79 million acres of land burned last month in the U.S., mostly in Texas. Much of the fuel for the fires came from dried underbrush and grasses which experienced ideal growing conditions during the summer of 2010, when there was abundant rain across the region. Nation-wide, the year-to-date period, January – April, has the greatest acreage burned in history, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

At the same time, Capitol Climate reports Record Heat in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma; Earliest 100° at Wichita, “The high of 100° at Wichita not only smashed the 116-year-old record for the date by 5°, but it was the earliest 100° ever recorded there.”

MISSISSIPPI RISING

The UK Guardian notes in its piece, “Memphis on flood alert as Mississippi waters hit record peak, ” that the heavy snows plus “an extremely wet April - with 600% more rain than normal in some southern states – have turned 2011 into a season of floods along the Mississippi’s 2,320-mile route.”

NCDC reports that it was the wettest April on record in six number of states that drain into the Mississippi:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/national/Statewideprank/201104-201104.gif

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/national/Statewideprank/201104-201104.gifMasters notes, “Some areas along the Ohio River Valley received up to 20 inches of rain during the month, which is nearly half their normal annual precipitation.”  Why did this happen?

Exceptionally warm air flowing from the Gulf of Mexico, which had near record-warm sea surface temperatures, gave Florida, Louisiana, and Texas top-ten warmest Aprils.

Again, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained here both the connection between global warming and deluges — and how this has been underplayed by many scientists and the media:

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.

Karl told the NY Times last year, “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”

Tom Karl, now director of NCDC, emailed me last week:

Joe, what we can say with confidence is that heavy and extreme precipitation events often associated with thunderstorms and convection are increasing and have been linked to human induced changes in atmospheric composition.

As for tornadoes, April smashed a number of all-time records.  Masters notes, “The largest tornado outbreak and greatest one-day total for tornadoes in history occurred during the historic April 25 – 28, 2011 tornado outbreak.”  NOAA released all the details yesterday here.

The attribution of extreme tornado events to global warming is tougher to make than for many other extreme events, as I discussed in detail here: “Tornadoes, extreme weather, and climate change.”  But just because attribution is difficult doesn’t mean that the subject of global warming should be avoided entirely when talking about tornadoes.  Former “adamant skeptic” about human-caused warming, Stu Ostro, who is a Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist, put it well in “The Katrina of tornado outbreaks“:  The atmosphere is extraordinarily complex, and ultimately what’s happened the past month is probably a combination of influences, including La Nina, other natural variability, and anthropogenic global warming.”

Equally important, when discussing extreme weather and climate, tornadoes should not be conflated with the other extreme weather events for which the connection is considerably more straightforward and better documented.

And yes, it is always important to repeat that what we are seeing along the Mississippi is also a result of bad planning by us.  The Guardian quotes climate and water  expert Gleick:

Since 1993, we have seen huge numbers of new homes and business built on the flood plain despite recommendations never to do that again,” said Gleick. “I think what we are seeing along the Mississippi is all of those things: climate change, bad planning, bad development and inappropriate levees.

Finally, it is worth simply listing all of the climate extremes set last month, as NCDC has done:

April Hell and High Water

“April is the cruelest month” begins T.S. Eliot’s classic, “The Waste Land.”

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 (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F).  That means in term of cruel months, we ain’t seen nothing yet!

Related Posts:

  • 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.”

‹ Mike Keefe climate cartoon

How bad ideas break through into public discourse: The (large) rebound effect and its refutation ›

63 Responses to Hell and High Water: “Great Texas Drought” drives record wildfires as record deluge drives Mississippi floods

  1. Mark says:

    Will the flood cause the Mississippi to change course, and bypass Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and all the industry and port facilities on that stretch of the river?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morganza_Spillway

    http://www.mappingsupport.com/p/gmap4.php?q=https://sites.google.com/site/gmap4files/p/news/mississippi_course_change.txt&ll=30.417887,-91.201416&t=h&z=9&label=on

    [JR: It would if the Army Corp let it. But they don't -- causing some of this problem.]

  2. Sou says:

    The ‘bad’ weather is being felt all over the world, affecting food production for another season.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-10/grain-crop-weather-damage-growing-on-europe-drought-canada-rain.html

  3. Joan Savage says:

    It looks like the meteorologists are a lot closer to a predictive ability that includes known climate change factors. The breakthrough study at Duke in 2010 that correlated ocean temperature to shifts in the location of the Bermuda High (NASH) was outstanding. We can hope for an improved warning system.

    By the way, the Guardian’s report of 600% normal precipitation is likely to be in error. It is not a match to a statement the Army Corps of Engineers spokesman, Steve Stockton. In an interview 5-9-11 on the PBS News Hour, here are two quotes from Stockton:

    STEVE STOCKTON: Yes. I think the system is designed to withstand about a — six times the normal average precipitation in the upper basin. We have experienced over a two-week period about eight times what the average precipitation is. So, this truly is an historic event.

    STEVE STOCKTON: Well, the biggest worry right now is that we don’t get additional precipitation. As we manage the flood crests as they move downstream, we’re monitoring gauge levels, as well as flow levels, very, very closely.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/weather/jan-june11/floods_05-09.html

  4. Prokaryotes says:

    Oil Subsidies -> Emission -> Weather Extremes & “Terror”.

    So what is the CIA doing, we have to fight the terror, which causes weather extremes.

  5. Climate change may have played a role in April’s incredible U.S. extreme weather, though a preliminary investigation by NOAA’s Climate Science Investigations (CSI) team concluded that “a change in the mean climate properties that are believed to be particularly relevant to severe storms has thus not been detected for April, at least during the last 30 years.”

    But here is this bit from the link you provide to the weatherperson’s post. And this is why people get so confused. Devoted readers of CP know not to make strict month to month (or day to day) comparisons. Why does NOAA undercut the message?

    [JR: NOAA was doing a narrow attribution for tornadoes, which, as I and others have said, is hard to do. BUT according to many experts I've talked to, like Trenberth, NOAA really did a pretty inadequate job even so.]

  6. Lewis C says:

    Joe – re the ‘low sill’ Old River Control Structure, that was badly undermined at one end by the flood of ’73, I can’t find any info on how extensive the repairs were.

    There are clear diagrams accessible of how concrete was poured into the massive hole under the sill, and how riprap was used to fill the hole extending upstream, and how concrete paving was then layed over part of the riprap nearest the sill. But there’s no info I can find on whether the full length of the sill was treated in this way – i.e. excavating right under its full length to get immense ammounts of new concrete in – or whether some lesser changes were made to the full length – or whether it was just a damage repair job.

    If the latter was the case, then with a much larger present flood than in ’73 (that nearly demolished the sill) it seems the structure could be lost this time.

    So are you able to clarify the extent of changes to the sill after the ’73 flood ?

    Regards,

    Lewis

  7. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, according to this post, extensively quoting a 1987 New Yorker article, there appears to be a basis for thinking that the Old River Control Structure might not be able to handle the current flood. In particular, note that it incurred major damage during the last (smaller than this one) big flood in 1973. It was repaired and expanded subsequent to that, but with this “Project Flood” comes the real test.

  8. Wit's End says:

    Well, JR, you really called it when you titled your book, I guess.

  9. Steve Bloom says:

    Lewis, the New Yorker article also quotes a CoE geologist saying that the biggest risk may be to the levees immediately upstream of the ORCS.

  10. toby says:

    Joe,

    I think the NOAA link actually brings you to Jeff Masters so you may want to take a look at it.

    Excellent post, as usual.

    [JR: Fixed, thanks.]

  11. Joan Savage says:

    As a sentiment in the post was to not lose track of the hells that are not getting media coverage, here is a depressing, and detailed, description of Texas agriculture in the drought.

    http://agrilife.org/today/2011/05/03/texas-crop-weather-for-may-3-2011/

  12. catman306 says:

    Too wet to plant in the Grain Belt. Way too dry in Texas. Does anyone keep track of the agricultural regions that are not climate stressed, i.e., regions expected to approach normal yields?

    I hope there are many.

  13. Michael T says:

    NOAA’s CSI Team Investigates Tornado Outbreak

    “The tornado outbreak across the southern United States in late April 2011 was deadly, devastating, and record breaking. These days, when the weather breaks records, it’s natural to wonder if global warming is to blame. So it’s not surprising that in recent weeks, climate scientists have been fielding lots of questions about the possible connection between global warming and tornados. Wondering and questioning are the foundation of science, but they are only the beginning. At NOAA, the Climate Attribution Rapid Response Team (aka the “CSI” team, for “Climate Scene Investigations”), led by Martin Hoerling of the Earth System Research Laboratory, tries to move the process forward from questions to answers. Last week, the team turned their focus to tornados.”

    http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/article/2011/noaas-csi-team-investigates-tornado-outbreak

  14. Aaron Lewis says:

    When the lower Mississippi decides to move, it will. Those levees and control structures are sitting on thousands of feet of mud. Ole Man River knows how to burrow through mud.

    Moreover, the design basis of The Project was “500-year return weather events” at that time. Now, we are seeing weather events of that size on an annual basis. Our climate has moved beyond what The Project was designed to accommodate.

    Mississippi River flood control is just one example of infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt to accommodate our new climate.

  15. paulm says:

    @2 Sou, this is it.
    We’ve stepped off the edge.

  16. espiritwater says:

    A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit the southern Pacific Ocean a few hours ago, according to the Huffington Post. Could a powerful earthquake in the southern seas affect the West Antarctic ice sheets, contributing to their dislodgement?

  17. Richard Brenne says:

    This is another great summary, Joe, thanks.

    The links Mark provides at #1 are especially useful, and I believe it’s been Mark who’s been alerting us to the fact that the Old River Control Structure could flood and the Mississippi permanently change course through Morgan City for over 10 days now (I brought it up to an Army Corps engineer last Sunday). So as usual on CP, you heard it here first!

    I forgot to ask the engineer if the existing levees and silt raise the entire river so that it wants to find lower ground. Anyone know? Our dearest friend Leif?

    Our precious Joe is so prescient that he titled his book “Hell and High Water” half a decade before this confluence of events at the confluence of the Mississippi and its largest tributaries with the Hell part starting just a couple of hundred miles west of the great river in Texas (85 miles fewer if the river decides to change channels).

    Mark Twain was also prescient, saying that man could never keep the Mississippi from going where it wanted, and also saying that “Man is the only animal that blushes – or needs to.”

    Two other useful links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_River_Control_Structure

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Mississippi_River_floods

    Maybe the Army Corps engineers could shore up the Old River Control Structure with the bricks they’ve been sh*tting.

    And if Ol’ Man River doesn’t get us this time, there’s always next time. . .and next. . .and next. . .at a rapidly accelerating pace. This is just with 4% more water vapor in the atmosphere, or the equivalent to 1.5 Lake Superiors – what could happen with a possible 10 degree F increase by 2100 and 40% more water vapor, or 15 Lake Superiors in the atmosphere waiting to come down during precipitation events like we can’t now imagine?

  18. paulm says:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/05/10/disaster-report.html
    Impacts rise , probably not coming down appreciably now

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    Saw something telling Sunday night about all this . The dew point at Corpus Christi was 74F, the dew point at El Paso was -17F.

    As for the river this season, watching all these mega floods around the world, one thing is clear . April was just round one here this year.

  20. Joan (#2),
    Those were 2 different time periods. The Guardian referred to the month of April; the PBS one was for only 2 weeks.

  21. Joan Savage says:

    catman306 (#12)

    The USDA does; sorry it’s such a table-dense document.
    http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/latest.pdf

    But, please take that in context of yield in Mt/ha:
    http://www.nue.okstate.edu/Crop_Information/World_Wheat_Production.htm

    Argentina is having a very good year for wheat.

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    As for the drought here in Texas. Here’s the last 3 days with wind speeds of 35mph, from the Southwest.
    Sat. 99F
    Sun. 99F
    Mon. 97F

    Childress, Texas near the Southwest corner of Oklahoma, was 107F Sunday.

    Hobby Airport in Houston has gone a record 51 consecutive days without measureable rainfall.

    Houston, College Station and Victoria, all in southeast Texas, recorded either their second driest or driest March through April since 1895. Houston hasn’t been as dry during the 60-day span since 1889, getting just .89 inches from March through April, well below its normal of 6.96 inches.
    http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9N1GRB00.htm

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    Less than a year after the worst drought in a generation destroyed one-third of Russia’s wheat crop and sent global food prices surging, more bad weather is damaging fields from North America to Europe to Asia.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-10/grain-crop-weather-damage-growing-on-europe-drought-canada-rain.html

  24. Richard Brenne says:

    That Bloomberg agricultural report that Sou links to at #2 and Colorado Bob links to at #22 is a must-read and would make a great post here.

  25. Joan Savage says:

    Richard Brenne (#16)

    “..if the existing levees and silt raise the entire river so that it wants to find lower ground. Anyone know? .. ”

    If I may, I’ll pinch hit for Leif. I previously did some environmental education writing, translating USA COE’s flood designs, though not for the Mississippi Basin.

    What I think you are going after is more information on what the COE calls the “bankfull” level as distinguished from the COE’s “flood” level.

    “Bankfull” is the elevation of the water if it were to overflow its natural banks, without the restraint of the levees. Most of the time the river is flowing in its channel below the bankfull level, and puts little stress on the levees.

    The “flood” level in the Mississippi is often higher than “bankfull” because of the levees.

    For example the Carrollton gauge near New Orleans has an 11-foot bankfull stage, a 17-foot flood stage, and the levee is about 20 feet high, as measured from the river bottom. Today the river is at flood stage, putting the water level 6 feet higher than the natural bank of the river. That means that top six feet of water could flow into NO if the levee broke, while the bottom 11 feet could keep on going.
    http://www2.mvr.usace.army.mil/WaterControl/shefgraph-wotem2.cfm?sid=01300&d=7&dt=S
    among other gauges which can be accessed through:
    http://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/cgi-bin/watercontrol.pl?01300

    Routinely, people visiting New Orleans are impressed with having the water level be higher than the ground they are standing on. Technically, its not the entire river that is elevated, but way too of it much is.

    Regarding silting, when not busy with a flood, the COE operates a nearly continuous dredging operation to keep the channel deep enough to avoid flow above the bankfull level, as that would put stress on the levees.

    Hope this helps, and I look forward to any comments from Leif!

  26. Richard Brenne says:

    Michael T (#13) – That is also a useful link, stating that NOAA hasn’t yet found an increase in tornadoes or the conditions that produce them.

    The key word here is yet.

    While Joe is very clear and accurate in his wording in this post, tornadoes, flooding and hurricanes all generally fall in the same category.

    There is so much more infrastructure and ability to detect these events relative to the past that it is difficult to tell what is within the realm of natural variability and what is an increase.

    Most of the data comes from the 20th Century when temperatures rose about a tenth of what they could rise by 2100, according to the necessarily-conservative IPCC Report process. As Joe points out with the MIT study in his post, we’re actually on track for the IPCC worst-case scenario.

    Ten times the increase in temperature would mean ten times the water vapor, or 40% additional, the equivalent to 15 Lake Superiors.

    That would make this century look very different from the last, and linear projections obsolete. As Hansen points out (and someone pointed out quoting him last week, I forget who), his extreme sea level projections would only mean half a meter increase by 2050, but 5 meters by 2100.

    This familiar hockey stick graph when exponential growth kicks in is what we’ve seen with population increase and consumption of essentially everything including oil and gas. Fossil fuels are limited (not in a way that by itself can save us) but as Hansen again points out, there is no limit to effective (for all human purposes) temperature increase, as Venus’ 850 degrees F indicates.

  27. Joan Savage says:

    Capital Climate (#19)

    Yes – And to tighten this up even better, the Guardian’s “southern states” differs geographically from the eight times normal precipitation, which occurred in the upper Mississippi basin.

  28. Colorado Bob says:

    A U.S. district court in Utah effectively shut down an effort by Koch Industries, the Kansas-based industrial conglomerate whose namesake brothers are vocal skeptics of global warming, to unmask a group of anonymous climate activists who spoofed the company in a mock press release last December.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/09/koch-climate-spoof-no-grounds-for-suit_n_859704.html

  29. Chris Winter says:

    Are those three statewide ranking plots supposed to be different? AFAICT they are the same, except for pixel dimensions and some differences in color values.

  30. Richard Brenne says:

    Aaron Lewis (#14) writes: “Mississippi River flood control is just one example of infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt to accommodate our new climate.”

    I agree with you. But because we’ll have a climate that is constantly changing and at an ever-accelerating rate (until the climate finds a new equilibrium, hopefully not comparable to Venus), how and where to build the new infrastructure is a difficult question.

    What infrastructure could handle a 40% increase in water vapor, or someday double that or more?

    Then we have the challenges with our economy and finding the billions (trillions?) that would have to be spent to create a truly appropriate levee system. Then with Peak Oil the challenge of powering the machinery to do that.

    And there might never be an appropriate levee system. Once you start building levees you can never stop, just as once you start building a fossil fuel-based economy reliant on the growth of everything you can’t stop – until Reality steps in and does the stopping for you.

    We want the levees and channel to maximize shipping as well as prevent flooding, but what we want and what Nature wants are two different things.

    As much as we might not want this, because of all these factors someday the Mississippi might revert to something more along the lines of its old self and within a couple of centuries (or less) Mark Twain will have been proven right.

  31. PurpleOzone says:

    The Suncook River in NH changed course after flooding due to severe rainstorms in 2006.
    http://www.wrrc.unh.edu/current_research/suncook.html

    I like the analogy of adding spots to some sides of the dice to explain the statistical consequences of changing climate.

  32. _Flin_ says:

    In Europe there is more of the same, with drought in the UK, France and Germany. China hasn’t got much rain lately as well.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-10/grain-crop-weather-damage-growing-on-europe-drought-canada-rain.html

  33. Joan Savage says:

    Richard Brenne (#29)

    “And there might never be an appropriate levee system.”

    The Corps of Engineers is likely to agree with you, at least in part.
    The WSJ ran a piece on it yesterday: “Rethinking Flood Control
    Levee System’s Impact on Communities, Environment Prompts Look at Alternatives”

    Relevant quote:
    “The idea is not to dismantle the hard structures, but to use other techniques to prevent the river from getting so high. “Whenever possible, the best way to manage floods is with a natural floodplain,” said Terrence “Rock” Salt, the U.S. Army’s deputy assistant secretary overseeing the Corps of Engineers’ water-resource policy.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703864204576311493351900976.html

  34. Jim Groom says:

    The President of the United States travelled to El Paso, Texas today to speak about immigration policy. Gov. Perry, he of the good hair, was asked to attend and he did not. Besides being disrespectful and childish in his behavior, it was just plain stupid. Perry did not attend because he is suppose to be so-mad over what he feels is a lack of support and aid from the feds to the wildfire situation in Texas. Why not attend and speak the official of the federal government and the President? I can’t help but wonder if this moron is serious about anything. It was not long ago that he was hinting about pulling out of the union. Just what does he think the Federal government consists of and the purpose of same. Just who would Texas be asking for help if not the rest of the country? For a gentlement who rails against the Federal government he certainly cry’s alot when that very help is not forthcoming. What a fraud.

  35. Richard Brenne says:

    Joan Savage (#24 & #32) – Thanks for your great insights and links!

  36. Dean says:

    I still think that they need to make a movie of Hell and High Water. You and Trenberth could be the consultants. Costner would make such a movie I think. Nor should it be a documentary – leave that to others. It should be a feature with plausible scenarios of hell and high water.

  37. nyc-tornado-ten says:

    There will likely be more century floods like this and greater in the coming decades on the mississippi. We can only wonder what the summer will bring this year. And winter. And next year’s spring, summer,…….

  38. Gord says:

    Re: fire, flood and wind.

    Welcome world to the new normal … actually to be more exact … welcome to the very start of the new normal. Our hearts go out to our American friends and relatives who are suffering.

  39. Robert In New Orleans says:

    Do I evacuate now or later?

  40. Steve Bloom says:

    Robert, the major risk is that the river will be evacuating from you.

  41. StSimonsIslandGAGuy says:

    I’m worried about the unprecedented drought locally. No, I’m not sure if global warming is responsible or not. Here on the GA coast from 2006-2010 we were 55″ of rain below normal. Last year was our driest in history (going back to 1948 for St. Simons Island) We were 24″ below normal. This year, we are 2″ below where we were last year, year to date.

    Now part of it is that thunderstorms just seem to be missing the island–Jacksonville FL and Savannah, GA, which we are mid-way between, have been well below normal, but not quite as dry as us. But there has never been a drought even approaching the intensity of our drought now. And it scares me.

  42. Richard Brenne says:

    Steve Bloom at #39 gets the one-liner of the day (week, month, year) award!

  43. JCH says:

    Why should the federal government help Texas? Perry asked Texans to pray for rain, and it rained. And then the rain storms moved east and killed 100s of people. This can happen when you go biblical on a drought.

  44. Joan Savage says:

    Robert In New Orleans (#38)
    I read that without the floodway, the river’s due to reach 19.5 feet in New Orleans on Monday, and that’s a pretty tight squeeze for a 20 foot levee in a river affected by tides. Because the Morganza floodway is not yet open, I’d be inclined to head to higher ground by the weekend, and wait to be sure the floodway is open. But that’s from a New Yorker who has only experienced one flood evacuation, from the Platte River.
    At any rate, best wishes for a safe outcome. Let us know how it goes, eh?

    http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/121535339.html?showAll=y&c=y

    http://www.wunderground.com/US/LA/062.html#FLO

  45. Joan Savage says:

    Gah! I should not write in insomniac moments. The river’s not expected to reach 19.5 feet in NO until Monday May 23 — not Monday May 16!

  46. a face in the clouds says:

    The other shoe – or the next shoe – is already dropping in the Texas Hill Country where an unusual rabies outbreak is in progress. The next risk may be from bats drawn to water sprinklers, especially in the Austin area.

    The flooding and tornadoes in the South are so far out of the ball park that one wonders how health officials can even begin to address potential hazards.

  47. Colorado Bob says:

    Here’s the new normal at work . Some sections of China have been in drought, when relief came to one section it brought :
    4 inches in 6 hours with tornadoes .

    From the start of the rain on Sunday morning until 2 pm, 100 mm of rain fell on the region, a record amount for the year.

    http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2011-05/09/content_22521460.htm

  48. Colorado Bob says:

    The National Climate Data Center added a map feature a few weeks ago to their records page. The last 4 days are remarkable for what the map plots do . A huge touge of heat comes out of Texas and tries to lick the Canadian border.
    This is pretty epic heat , 106 in Oklahoma in the first half of May is really cookin’.
    Monday there were 38 stations in Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas that made 100F degrees or higher.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/records/daily/maxt/2011/05/09?sts=US#records_look_up

  49. Colorado Bob says:

    875 tornadoes in April, a new U.S. record.

    305 confirmed tornadoes touched down from April 25-28.

    Wettest April since 1895 for Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (3 times the normal amount of rain fell).

    95% of Texas is experiencing severe, extreme or exceptional drought.

    $2.6 billion: damage from U.S. winter storms in 2010, one of the top 5 years ever recorded for winter-related damage.

    $9.5 billion: total U.S. financial losses from severe thunderstorms in 2010, third highest ever, behind 2009 and 2008.

    5X. Thunderstorm losses nationally now average 5 times the level recorded in the early 1980′s.

    http://www.startribune.com/blogs/121615518.html

    “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.” September, 2010 statement from Munich Re, one of the largest reinsurance companies in the world.

  50. Wit's End says:

    StSimonsIslandGAguy, #40,

    Extreme weather from climate change is indeed a scary prospect, welcome to the club! Here is an excellent roundup from Climate Progress of the most recent science making links, (and if you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to read the archives and also visit other climate sites like Skeptical Science and Peter Sinclair’s Climate Crock of the Week on Youtube):

    http://climateprogress.org/2011/02/16/two-nature-paper-join-growing-body-of-evidence-that-human-emissions-fuel-extreme-weather-flooding-that-harm-humans-and-the-environment/

  51. Wit's End says:

    Columbia:

    It has never rained so much in Colombia. “Over the past 10 months we have registered five or six times more rainfall than usual,” says weather specialist Ricardo Lozano. Torrential rain and flooding have affected more than three-quarters of the country. The most recent Red Cross bulletin reports 425 fatalities and 3 million disaster victims.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/10/heavy-rains-flooding-colombia

  52. Colorado Bob says:

    Another all time record broken -

    Lake flooding damages or destroys 500 homes in Vt.

    MONTPELIER, Vt. —

    Already at its highest level ever, Lake Champlain surpassed flood stage by 3 feet Friday, leaving hundreds of homes destroyed or damaged in a slowly unfolding catastrophe on island communities and the New York and Vermont sides of the 120-mile-long lake.

    http://www.lakewyliepilot.com/2011/05/06/1115184/in-vermont-overflowing-lake-champlain.html

  53. John McCormick says:

    RE # 50

    Colorado Bob,

    Thanks for the link.

    An aspect f flooding that does not get much attention is the amount of time it takes for a water body, lake or stream to return to normal, or average level.

    In the Mississippi flood plain it might take weeks and on the shores of Lake Champlain, maybe longer.

    From the article you posted:

    The National Weather Service said Friday it was optimistic that the lake level would peak within 48 hours and begin to recede next week. But it won’t happen quickly.

    “Historically, when we see it go up above flood stage, it usually takes 20 days per foot of drop,” said Greg Hanson, a National Weather Service hydrologist in South Burlington. “So now, we’re at 103 feet (above sea level), which would be 60 days. If we don’t get any rain, we can fall faster than that. If we get some rain, it’ll certainly be slower.”

    “It takes a long time for it to go back.”

    That worsens property damage and likely contributes to condemnation of buildings too waterlogged to salvage.

    John McCormick

    John McCormick

  54. Viking says:

    It looks like Russia is on fire too. I spotted big plumes of smoke in the Russian far east when looking at sea ice in MODIS images:
    http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/subsets/?subset=Arctic_r06c06.2011131.terra

    The image is rotated from standard: SE top, NW bottom, NE left, SW right.
    The coastline at the top is the Sea of Okhotsk along Khabarovsk Krai.

  55. Ed Hummel says:

    I know I don’t have to convince most people who read this blog of what is happening to our climate already. But one would really have to have his head in the sand not to understand that what we are seeing globally is unprecedented in that all these things are happening all at once and continuing without let up. I should also point out that all these extremes are a direct result of the very sluggish jet stream patterns which are just what are expected with a warming world. This is what it means to have melting Arctic!!!!

  56. Joan Savage says:

    StSimonsIslandGAguy (#41)

    I can’t say how this would affect your feelings, but if you’d like to be able to understand more about what’s happening in your region, there some research on the Bermuda High. The Bermuda High is formally called the North Atlantic Subtropical High (NASH) and it’s been moving more inland over the years, as the ocean warms. Researchers at Duke University, led by Dr. Wenhong Li, tracked the movement inland and observed a relationship to the Southeast’s increased rainfall variability.

    There have been several write-ups, but if you want to tackle the source paper, here’s the citation:

    Li, Wenhong, Laifang Li, Rong Fu, Yi Deng, Hui Wang, 2011: Changes to the North Atlantic Subtropical High and Its Role in the Intensification of Summer Rainfall Variability in the Southeastern United States. J. Climate, 24, 1499–1506.
    doi: 10.1175/2010JCLI3829.1

  57. Jay Alt says:

    Earth scientists and flood experts discuss an idea easily overlooked, much of the increased flooding is from changes in runoff response rather than more pptn. One more aspect of overzealous human interference.

    Mississippi Rising: Critics Say High Water Result of Man Not Mother Nature
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/mississippi-rising-critics-high-water-result-man-mother/story?id=13570001

  58. Chris Winter says:

    Viking wrote: “It looks like Russia is on fire too. I spotted big plumes of smoke in the Russian far east when looking at sea ice in MODIS images.”

    Volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula?

  59. Mike # 22 says:

    Colorado Bob @49, Thanks for that mapper.

  60. Joan Savage says:

    Mike #22 (#61) Thank you and Colorado Bob. It’s a shock to revisit the
    map today, and look at May 11. On the map, a red cloud of dots for more new daily maximums are clustered, more to the north of the new daily records set on May 9.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/extremes/records/daily/maxt/2011/05/11?sts=US#records_look_up

  61. By 4 years ago I have used the NOAA data to make a report for WH.
    By about few month I have detailed the report and made public accessible in the book “Challenges of the Future, A fork in the road “Y” – that details the weather change possible economic and social effects and recommends preparedness and adaptation in advance to the future conditions – unfortunately it requires legislation that to allow property swap and compensations in order to use nature guidance and rebuild smart and develop smart recovery and assistance procedures.
    The distribution of the report to US senate and WH had no impact, because these guys are so concerned about their own political day to day life, as ignore almost all major problems of US from which they can not take political capital…a shake is needed to wake them up and do what is right for US. If not, the dare predictions of the books will apply in US that will be a certified failed state by 2100… together with all the planet in derail and survival mode.
    Success