|This dramatic photo of a microburst in Phoenix earlier|
this month probably inspired a wildly misleading'
clickbait article in Bloomberg News
The screaming headline on one of their articles is "Forget Tornadoes: Rain Bombs are Coming For Your Town."
The subhead is "Climate Change is Weaponizing the Atmosphere."
Before you panic and build a steel-plated armor-resistant umbrella to fend off these attacks, relax.
The Bloomberg headlines are just clickbait.
The article is about microbursts, and the piece tried to tie them to the real phenomenon of an increasing trend of more and heavier extreme rain events. That trend is thought to be related to global warming.
But let's not go overboard like Bloomberg did, Jeesh!
Microbursts are gushes of rain and wind that drop dramatically from thunderstorms. The drag of falling rain and hail push air downward toward the Earth's surface. Evaporating water within the thunderstorm also cools the air and makes it more dense, accelerating it toward the ground
This results in a potentially dangerous blast of wind and torrential rain for people who happen to be right where the rapidly sinking air hits the ground.
I think the Bloomberg article was inspired by a viral photo of a microburst in Phoenix earlier this month that everybody and their brother highlighted. ("Everybody" includes me, who was also fascinated by the photo and featured it.)
The excellent photo really looks like a hydrogen bomb exploding, but it really is a great gush or rain and wind slamming downward from an ominous looking thunderstorm over Phoenix.
This is the first time I've heard of a microburst referred to as a "rain bomb". I'm not alone. Capital Weather Gang, for one, was mystified by the term. But I guess "rain bomb" is an effective way of getting people's interest.
But not a good way.
This weird terminology confuses people and falsely alarms people by suggesting climate change is so bad that the atmosphere has declared war on us.
Climate change is without a doubt a bad, scary problem. But, unlike what the headlines suggest, microbursts are not some Great New Menace. Like 'em or not, microbursts have always been around.
The Bloomberg article also says this about thunderstorms and microbursts in the news lately:
"The past two months have seen some doozies in the U.S. The Empire State Building was struck by lightning twice on Monday during a storm that brought an inch of rain down in what felt like a single sheet."
Actually, the storm that hit New York wasn't all that unsual. The Empire State Building is often struck by lightning, as these bolts are very often attracted to the tallest object around, and we all know the Empire State Building is pretty damn tall.
An inch of rain in a such a short period of time is somewhat unusual in New York, but it happens from time to time.
The article describes microbursts as "rare" but they're pretty common, actually. Almost any place on Earth that can get thunderstorms can also get microbursts. If you're almost anywhere in the United States, I'm sure you've been in at least one, or perhaps several in your lifetime.
Once you get into the meat of the Bloomberg article and settles down into something resembling accuracy. Of course, by then, they've lost a lot of readers, who are just going to live in constant fear of those roving "rain bombs" roving around trying to kill them like so many ISIS terrorists.
Still, Bloomberg does accurately note that extreme precipitation events are increasing, even if they aren't necessarily microbursts.
In fact, most of what Bloomberg cites as examples were not microbursts. For instance, there probably was some embedded microbursts in the storms that caused record flash flooding in West Virginia in June that killed 23 people.
But most of the storms were just scarily heavy downpours.
As the Earth's atmosphere gets hotter, it hold more moisture, because the warmer the air, the more water can hang suspended up there.
When a storm comes along, under the right conditions, the system can take advantage of all this extra water in the air to create extreme downpours.
So yeah, climate change might be causing some more weather drama. But rain bombs? Let's just say the Department of Defense is not exactly working on building anti-rain bomb defense shields.