Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Hot Summer Worldwide And Some Resultant Chaos

A house burns in Cajon Junction,  California during
a wildfire this past week. Photo by Eugene Garcia/EPA 
Thursday afternoon, a torrential thunderstorm rumbled through Lafayette, Louisiana.

Not exactly what they needed, as renewed flash flooding was unleashed on a disaster zone of extreme flooding.

It takes awhile to recover from two feet of rain that destroyes 40,000 homes. Since that rainfall hit last weekend, the last thing Louisiana needs is more rain.

Meanwhile, out in California, wildfires rage. More than 80,000 people were evacuated ahead of a fast moving wildfire in the rugged hills and canyons between Los Angeles and San Bernardino, though some have since been allowed to return to their homes.

At least the people who still had homes. At least 100 homes were destroyed in that fire. Another 160 homes and businesses were destroyed in another wildfire further north in California.

August is often a month of terrible weather disaster in the United States. It's the start of hurricane season, so there's that threat.

The dog days of August, with all its high humidity in the eastern half of the nation, can set off some big flash floods.

Out West, the sun has been baking the landscape all summer, so wildifires typically break out about now.

This year seems worse than usual, though.  Maybe part of it is because of our increasingly hot planet, who knows?

Earlier this week, we learned that July, 2016 was the Earth's hottest month on record, at least since they started keeping reliable track of this in the late 1800s.

Most of the world's land masses are in the northern hemisphere. Land masses heat up more and faster in the summer than oceans do, so July is normally the hottest month of the year if you look at the Earth as a whole.

Since July was the hottest on record, it also means July was the hottest of any month on record. It was also the 15th consecutive month of record high global temperatures.

It stands to reason, then, that it's possible that this summer's weather extremes could in part be tied to climate change.

Extremes happen all the time, of course. Always have, always will. If I look back far enough, I could probably find floods somewhere in the distant past as bad as the one Louisiana just had. Or I could find wildfires worse than the ones California is experiencing.
Enormous flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana last week
Photo from Picayune  

The question is, this: Is the frequency of these events revving up?  After all, climate change's effects on day-to-day weather has been often famously likened to that of a Major League Baseball slugger who's juiced up on steroids.

You know that some of this guy's home runs would have happened anyway - he's that good. But some of those home runs might have been aided and abetted by steroids.

Same with weather and climate change. Bad things happen with the weather every once in awhile just because that's the way it is. But global warming is like those steroids, possibly making the weather woes more frequent and more scary.

This summer has been unsettling, to say the least. You never know when the next disaster is going to come crashing down on us. Is that little tropical disturbance off the coast of Africa going to turn into a monster that threatens the United States? Or will it sputter to nothing as it meanders out in the open Atlantic?

Will the next round of thunderstorms be just the usual summertime crash, pour and dash or will they unleash torrents to flood out everything in their path?

When and where will the next western wildfire explode and how many homes will it destroy this time?

Where I live in Vermont, there's been a lot of nice, hot sunny weather in August. A perfect New England vacation month. When will the other shoe drop?

Here's a good, engaging video that explains further that weather on steroids analogy:


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