Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Epic Matthew Flooding Continues In North Carolina

Areal view of Lumberton, North Carolina. Photo
by Chris Keane/Reuters  
So far 11 people have died in the huge flooding in North Carolina, all caused by departing Hurricane Matthew, which dumped up to 15 inches of rain on the state over the weekend.

The flood highlights the principal danger of hurricanes - water - and the continued threat of enormous floods from a warmer atmosphere.  

Though a single storm like Matthew cannot prove or disprove global warming, some of what happened with Matthew in North Carolina might have the finger prints of climate change on it.

It wasn't entirely global warming, obviously. There have always been hurricanes on the East Coast, and many of them throughout history  have caused serious flooding.

However, certain aspect of the atmosphere might have made the North Carolina flooding even worse than it otherwise would have been.

As Capital Weather Gang notes, the Atlantic Ocean waters off the coast of North Carolina were at near record highs as Matthew came into the picture.

Record ocean temperatures increased evaporation, which put record high amounts of moisture into the atmosphere. That, combined with the strong hurricane winds propelling the moisture inland, a weather front that set up along the coast created a temperature contrast in which the wet, warm air was forced to rise over some cooler air.

Rising air unleashes even more rain, so the downpours became extreme, dumping at rates of up to four inches an hour. (For reference, here in Vermont during the summer, it normally takes four or five weeks to accumulate four inches of rain.)

The North Carolina floods come in a year that has seen other extreme so called 100-year floods in the nation, including in West Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana and Texas.

It's not so much one storm signals climate change (it doesn't.) It's just that the overall trends continue to be troubling.

Here's a kayaker's view of the flooding in Fayettville, North Carolina, which partly includes kayaking through the interior of an inundated building:

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