As greenhouse pollution continues to build in the atmosphere, 2010 is entering the history books as the hottest year on record. A year of unprecedented extreme weather disasters, 2010 saw tens of thousands of people killed and millions affected by our increasingly dangerous climate. The year is ending with yet more climate disasters, from floods in Australia to winter tornadoes across America:
Parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee were on the lookout for more twisters after several touched down Friday — including one that killed three people in an Arkansas town. Two more people died in southern Missouri. Three people died in Cincinnati, a hamlet of about 100 residents about three miles from the Oklahoma border. An elderly couple died in their home, while a dairy farmer was killed while milking his cows.
The tornadoes are part of an “unusual” storm front fed by “warm, moist air in place over the region.” On the colder edge of the front, “the storm responsible for the deadly tornado is also bringing a dangerous winter storm to the West and Midwest,” with up to three feet of new snow from California to Idaho.
Meanwhile, Australia is being ravaged by unprecedented flooding, following tremendous rainfall for months, compounded by the Christmas Day landfall of Cyclone Tasha. Floods now cover an area “the size of France and Germany combined.” Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced millions of dollars of relief funding as she described the record-breaking floods:
Some communities are seeing floodwaters higher than they’ve seen in decades, and for some communities floodwaters have never reached these levels before [in] the time that we have been recording floods. For many communities we haven’t even seen the peak of the floodwaters yet, that’s a number of days away.
“Some sections of coastal Queensland received over four feet of rain from September through November,” meteorologist Jeff Masters reports. The floods, which have wiped out crops, drowned livestock, and disrupted the largest coal ports in the world, are expected to cause at least $1 billion in damage.
I’ve lived most of my life in rural Southern Minnesota. I’ve lived intimately with nature for much of that time. I’m also a keen observer.
To be fair, I have witnessed such extremes before. What concerns me is the ongoing trends. I’ve kept a log of weather events for decades: First frost. “Leaf season”. First snow. First “safe” ice for ice-fishing. First green buds of spring. Ice out. etc.
I can say, based on my own observations, that winter is two to three weeks later and spring is two to three weeks earlier just during my lifetime. I knew that something was screwy long before Al Gore made that damned movie.
And? The observations that I’ve made personally pale in comparison to the less tangible signs of change. I didn’t see a possum until I was thirty. Now? They are thick as fleas. Coyotes have also been expanding their range northward. Countless plants have moved North. I’ve seen ducks largely abandon the Northern Mississippi flyway due to drought and invasive species. The coot are almost gone.
Living here, at the border of two biozones, the changes are not hard to see.