37 Responses to Hell and High Water: Weather Channel labels Texas drought and Mississippi floods truly “exceptional”
Masters: This is “only” a “1-in-100 to 1-in-300 year flood.”
Click on image for Weather Channel video.
Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist Jonathan Erdman writes today:
There comes a point at which a meteorological event becomes truly “exceptional”.
We’ve already seen two events just in the past few weeks that pushed the record books to the limit: The deadly swarm of tornadoes from April 25-28 particularly in the South, and now the slow-moving flood disaster that, in some areas is topping the Great Flood of 1927.
There is another weather event that has now crossed the “exceptional” threshold … the Southern drought.
Here’s a question: At what point do three nearly simultaneous truly exceptional weather events in the same part of one country become something beyond exceptional?
I’d call them climactic climatic events, but in all likelihood they will be fairly un-exceptional weather events in a few decades if we stay anywhere near our current greenhouse gas emissions path.
Erdman himself does make the link to climate change:
In my view, Texas is one of the most “feast or famine” precipitation states in the nation. TWC Meteorologist Carl Parker says Texas has gone from being at least 82% in drought to less than 12% in drought 14 times over the last 11 years!
Parker says this may be evidence of the amplification of the water cycle as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), relating to greater evaporation over land and water.
It not just the Southern Plains, either. Just under one-third of the state of New Mexico is also in exceptional drought.
The science is increasingly strong on how warming is driving the amplification of the water cycle in the United States itself (see 2010 Study: Global warming is driving increased frequency of extreme wet or dry summer weather in southeast, so droughts and deluges are likely to get worse).
The scientific warnings that we will see stronger and stronger droughts and Dust Bowls in the Southwest have themselves become stronger and stronger, with multiple publications in the last two years (see USGS on Dust-Bowlification in the SW and NCAR analysis warns we risk multiple, devastating global droughts even on moderate emissions path and links therein).
Here’s more on the exceptional weather from meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters of WunderBlog:
The Mississippi River continues to rise to heights never seen before along its course through the states of Mississippi and Louisiana. At Natchez, Mississippi, the river has already hit 59 feet, breaking the previous all-time record of 58 feet set in the great 1937 flood. The river is expected to keep rising at Natchez until May 21, when a crest of 64 feet–a full six feet above the previous all-time record–is expected. Record crests are also expected downstream from Natchez, at Red River Landing and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on May 22. Fortunately, the levee system on the Lower Mississippi constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers is built to withstand a greater than 1-in-500 year flood, and this flood is “only” a 1-in-100 to 1-in-300 year flood….
A record number of billion-dollar weather disasters for so early in the year
The U.S. has already had five weather disasters costing more than a billion dollars this year, which has set a record for the most number of such disasters so early in the year. We’ve already beat the total for billion-dollar weather disaster for all of 2010 (three), and with hurricane season still to come, this year has a chance of beating 2008’s record of nine such disasters. The billion dollar weather disasters of 2011 so far:
1) 2011 Groundhog Day’s blizzard ($1 – $4 billion)
2) April 3 -5 Southeast U.S. severe weather outbreak ($2 billion)
3) April 8 – 11 severe weather outbreak ($2.25 billion)
4) April 25 – 28 super tornado outbreak ($3.7 – $5.5 billion)
5) Mississippi River flood of 2011 ($2+ billion)
Losses from the on-going Texas drought and wildfires are already at $180 million, and this is likely to be a billion-dollar disaster by the time all the agricultural losses are tallied.
Again, 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). So we ain’t seen nothing “truly exceptional” yet!
- Tornadoes, extreme weather, and climate change
- Hell and High Water: “Great Texas Drought” drives record wildfires as record deluge drives Mississippi floods; NOAA reports “April 2011: historic U.S. extremes in rains, floods, tornadoes, and fires”
- “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.”
- Stu Ostro, Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist, “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.”
- NCAR’s Trenberth on the link between global warming and extreme deluges: “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.”