Floods, Drought and Climate Change
Floods Follow Cyclones, Hurricanes and Climate Change
Hurricane Sandy is the largest ever cyclone and the devastation it caused will be felt for years to come, Its cost might be weighed up in dollars but the lives it has ruined, changed, or taken away will never be fully assessed as people stuggle to come to terms with what has happened. The image is from Wikipedia open source and shows the storm at near peak intensity on October 25th, 2012.
Its heartbreaking to see and awesome to watch when giant floods inundate land from cities to country properties and everything in its path is wiped out, devastated, destroyed, killed or at best water damaged. That's what I saw on television `in a report on Hurricane Floyd which devastated the Bahamas and many other islands before arriving on the North Carolina Coast but it was inland in that state that it had the most devastating impact.
During Hurricane Floyd the Tar River flooded while every river system in the area received a 500 year flood.levels or greater. It is hard to comprehend the damage and harder still to have watched cattle die painfully over several days as they struggled against the cold while standing in more than a meter of water for 5 days or more without food or milking. The calves died first and on one property several hundreds of cattle perished with only one survivor. The owner of the property went everyday to film their passing.
Wiki describes the devastation thus "With a death toll of 70, Hurricane Floyd was the deadliest United States hurricane since Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The storm also was one of the costliest in the nation's history, amounting to $4.5 billion (1999 USD; $5.3 billion in 2006 U.S. dollars). Most of the deaths and damage were from inland, freshwater flooding in eastern North Carolina." Of course that was before Katrina. It was also before Sandy that now has a death toll in excess of 100 and at least a $20-$40 billion price tag,
They Occur Just About Everywhere
More frquent, more devastating, more powerful
Whatever you call them, whether hurricanes or cyclones, they pack a punch that is difficult to understand and hard to overcome. It seems that the term 'hurricane' applies to West Indian cyclonic storms of extreme violence and the term "cyclone" is used to describe the same type of windstorm elsewhere.
In effect these type of systems represent one the strongest forces of nature and they are controlled by sea temperature. As that is on the increase we may expect not only more of these giant winds but ever more devastating ones than before. This is what global warming leads to and nothing much appears to be on the agenda to curb it. With the recent climate change talks in Copenhagen becoming almost a non event and with only empty promises from some governments to curb CO2 emissions it would seem on the surface that money, power and jobs are more important to those in control.
Of course there is another side to the debate as many would have it that climate change is a natural phenomena and has nothing to do with humans. But there is a case to prove that this kind of thinking is wrong. With that in mind can we afford to be complacent and to stand back and do nothing? How do we shake up the mix enough to allow the possibility that we are at fault and each one of us can do something?
We think of those who can invent some extraordinary things and who have made it possible to go to the moon and overcome most adversaries and diseases and yet fail to figure that the world is stressed beyond possible recovery. Overpopulation will only increase global warming as more forests are removed, more resources dry up, more pollution takes place and greed and neglect take their toll.
A scientific program on the ABC Television in Australia (Catalyst - May 7th, 2010) featured a report on overfishing and the long term effect which could see no fish by 2050. It showed thousands of fish caught in nets by trawlers who are armed with the latest equipment to spot schools of fish and to catch the lot. On the other hand many that are taken are wasted as they are the wrong type or have been caught by mistake. It revealed that 27% of fish species have collapsed with many of them gone for good.
US States Threatened by Floyd - Anticipating Floyds arrival
Have you Ever Experienced a Cyclone or Hurricane
Do you think we should be changing our ways, even our lifestyles to stop climate change?
What Causes Hurricanes and Cyclones
Winds of devastating force.
"Hurricanes start when warm, moist air from the ocean surface begins to rise rapidly, where it encounters cooler air that causes the warm water vapor to condense and to form storm clouds and drops of rain. The condensation also releases latent heat, which warms the cool air above, causing it to rise and make way for more warm humid air from the ocean below.
As this cycle continues, more warm moist air is drawn into the developing storm and more heat is transferred from the surface of the ocean to the atmosphere. This continuing heat exchange creates a wind pattern that spirals around a relatively calm center, or eye, like water swirling down a drain. " (cited About.com: Environmental Issues)
The warmer the oceans the more likely these events. Right now the oceans are warming to an incredible degree and with ice melting from the polar caps there are great changes happening to the under currents which also affect weather patterns. Great chunks of ice are breaking away from Antarctica where the melt is increasing dramatically. Already animal species, such as penguins, are suffering the effects along with birds, and ocean dwellers like fish, whales and plankton.
But with temperature change other things are also taking place. Heavier salt water usually sinks to the bottom because it is colder and denser. Right now the process by which this occurs is altering allowing the salt to stay closer to the surface. The sinking of the colder less buoyant water drives a current called the overturning circulation. "That circulation is really important for climate, because it determines how much heat and carbon the ocean can store and also transport from one place to another." (cited Dr. Steve Rintoul - Catalyst May 1st 2010) This worthy scientist tells us that as the salty water gets fresher from the ice melt it is less inclined to sink to the bottom and the whole system is under stress.
Recent reports shows a similar thing is happening in the Arctic where ice melt is also increasing at an alarming rate. Currents that take the warm water from the tropics to the colder regions of the north to bring about warmer summers and moderate winter temperatures is also under stress. That has resulted in much colder winters, heavier snowfalls and increasing floods in spring with ice melt.
These two major currents also cool tropical waters as the colder streams from the north and south polar ice regions arrive throughout the summer months and precipitation follows as the monsoon. This process also allows for cooler ocean breezes in the temperate zones. These winds bring moisture and generate rainfall. Without these breezes the land gets hotter, dryer and drought occurs. The Eastern region of Australia has just experienced a major 10 year long drought which has played havoc with agriculture and dam levels which fell in some cases to almost empty. The Capital city of Perth, on the western coast, experienced a long period of several months with no rain falling at all.
With the breaking of this drought major flooding occurred throughout Queensland and New South Wales with extreme loss of animal life as well as major crop and property damage. There seemed to be little doubt among the residents and governments that this was the result of Climate change, The Rudd government tried to take steps at a federal level to change for CO2 emissions but the opposition blocked it in the Senate. This is politics at its worst. All they want to do is throw spanners in the works to stop the government achieving anything that the people might like and so make themselves more favorable.
Tornadoes and Severe Thunderstorms
"The most intense of all atmospheric circulations on a local scale in this region, tornadoes are the rarest and most violent of thunderstorm phenomena. According to the Glossary of Meteorology (2000) a tornado is a violently rotating column of air suspended from large storm clouds in contact with the ground. It has a funnel shape and its vortex can range in width from a few meters to hundreds of meters. The majority of strong and violent tornadoes occur in association with supercell thunderstorms." (cited Geoscience Australia - open source information).
The diverse types of storms and the severity of them is not hard to figure. Nature is armed with many powerful weapons to try to regulate the temperature to normal conditions and storms are one of those tools. With its onset comes cooling winds, rain and electrical currents to change the atmosphere from hot and dry to instantly cold and wet.
It is not hard to notice the sudden drop in temperature which can be as much as 20*Celsius or more. One minute it is stifling hot, unbearably humid and sticky and the next almost freezing cold, windy, wet and refreshing.
The main difference between a tornado and cyclone is the effect on the oceans. It is only the former that has the power to cool the waters which spawned it. As global warming continues we can expect more of nature's tricks to try to combat man's devastation on the environment we all depend on.
Humans Are To Blame - The facts cannot be ignored
Start of a Tornado
Have You Been Near or In a Tornado?
Do you think we can change environmental stress?
Still images from Dreamstime - click here
© 2010 norma-holt