Tropical storms that make their way into the North Atlantic, and possibly strike the East Coast of the United States, likely will become more intense during the rest of this century.
That's the prediction of one University of Iowa researcher and his colleague as published in an early online release in the Journal of Climate, the official publication of the American Meteorological Society.
The study is a compilation of results from some of the best available computer models of climate, according to lead author Gabriele Villarini, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, and his colleague Gabriel Vecchi of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Princeton, N.J.
"We wanted to conduct the study because intense tropical cyclones can harm people and property," Villarini says. "The adverse and long-lasting influence of such storms recently was demonstrated by the damage Hurricane Sandy created along the East Coast."
The study itself examines projected changes in the North Atlantic Power Dissipation Index (PDI) using output from 17 state-of-the-art global climate models and three different potential scenarios. The PDI is an index that integrates storm intensity, duration, and frequency.
"We found that the PDI is projected to increase in the 21st century in response to both greenhouse gas increases and reductions in particulate pollution over the Atlantic over the current century. By relating these results to other findings in a paper we published May 13, 2012 in the journal Nature Climate Change, we found that, while the number of storms is not projected to increase, their intensity is," he says.
"Moreover, our results indicate that as more carbon dioxide is emitted, the stronger the storms get, while scenarios with the most aggressive carbon dioxide mitigation show the smallest increase in intensity," he says.
There's some historical precedent for the current soaking that Northern California is getting. Maybe too much precedent.
The intense rainstorms sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean began to pound central California on Christmas Eve in 1861 and continued virtually unabated for 43 days. The deluges quickly transformed rivers running down from the Sierra Nevada mountains along the state’s eastern border into raging torrents that swept away entire communities and mining settlements. The rivers and rains poured into the state’s vast Central Valley, turning it into an inland sea 300 miles long and 20 miles wide. Thousands of people died, and one quarter of the state’s estimated 800,000 cattle drowned. Downtown Sacramento was submerged under 10 feet of brown waterfilled with debris from countless mudslides on the region’s steep slopes. California’s legislature, unable to function, moved to San Francisco until Sacramento dried out—six months later. By then, the state was bankrupt.
A comparable episode today would be incredibly more devastating. The Central Valley is home to more than six million people, 1.4 million of them in Sacramento. The land produces about $20 billion in crops annually, including 70 percent of the world’s almonds—and portions of it have dropped 30 feet in elevation because of extensive groundwater pumping, making those areas even more prone to flooding. Scientists who recently modeled a similarly relentless storm that lasted only 23 days concluded that this smaller visitation would cause $400 billion in property damage and agricultural losses. Thousands of people could die unless preparations and evacuations worked very well indeed.
Was the 1861–62 flood a freak event? It appears not. New studies of sediment deposits in widespread locations indicate that cataclysmic floods of this magnitude have inundated California every two centuries or so for at least the past two millennia. The 1861–62 storms also pummeled the coastline from northern Mexico and southern California up to British Columbia, creating the worst floods in recorded history. Climate scientists now hypothesize that these floods, and others like them in several regions of the world, were caused by atmospheric rivers, a phenomenon you may have never heard of. And they think California, at least, is overdue for another one.
Ten Mississippi Rivers, One Mile High
Atmospheric rivers are long streams of water vapor that form at about one mile up in the atmosphere. They are only 250 miles across but extend for thousands of miles—sometimes across an entire ocean basin such as the Pacific. These conveyor belts of vapor carry as much water as 10 to 15 Mississippi Rivers from the tropics and across the middle latitudes. When one reaches the U.S. West Coast and hits inland mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada, it is forced up, cools off and condenses into vast quantities of precipitation.
People on the West Coast of North America have long known about storms called “pineapple expresses,” which pour in from the tropics near Hawaii and dump heavy rain and snow for three to five days. It turns out that they are just one configuration of an atmospheric river. As many as nine atmospheric rivers hit California every year, according to recent investigations. Few of them end up being strong enough to yield true megafloods, but even the “normal” storms are about as intense as rainstorms get in the rest of the U.S., so they challenge emergency personnel as well as flood-control authorities and water managers.
Atmospheric rivers also bring rains to the west coasts of other continents and can occasionally form in unlikely places. For example, the catastrophic flooding in and around Nashville in May 2010—which caused some 30 deaths and more than $2 billion in damages—was fed by an unusual atmospheric river that brought heavy rain for two relentless days up into Tennessee from the Gulf of Mexico. In 2009 substantial flooding in southern England and in various parts of Spain was also caused by atmospheric rivers. But the phenomenon is best understood along the Pacific Coast, and the latest studies suggest that these rivers of vapor may become even larger in the future as the climate warms.
Read it all, especially if you live in California.
I am amazed that half the country would vote for Mitt. Every time he's had a chance to measure up to the office he's failed. So what would Mitt do if he'd been President as Sandy rocked the Eastern Seaboard?
As Click & Clack will tell you, it’s the stingy man who ends up paying most, and apparently it’s as true of governing as car repairs! And apparently also, Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, was quite the Scrooge when it came to building levees and other flood control for his state! Here is a nice find from our friends at Slog:
In the spring of 2004, Peabody, Mass., got drenched with rain, which flooded the downtown area. After the storm, then-Gov. Mitt Romney asked President George W. Bush to declare Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk Counties federal disaster areas, according to the Boston Globe.
That fall, the state legislature proposed spending $5.7 million on a flood prevention project to protect against future floods. Those funds would be matched by $22 million in federal money.
Romney vetoed it.
Haha, you guys are never gonna guess what happened just two years later, in 1996 2006. Go ahead, try. You’ll never … oh. Yeah, that was it.
From Esquire, digging up an old opinion piece from the (conservative) Lowell Sun:
We find it inconceivable that Gov. Mitt Romney claims the state can do nothing to help those residents still struggling to rebuild homes and businesses after the May flood. Massachusetts is sitting on millions in unspent emergency funds from Hurricane Katrina and more than $1 billion in cash reserves, yet Romney has failed to even respond to the Lowell delegation’s requests to discuss additional aid for victims. The governor’s spokesman — since Romney can’t be bothered to comment now that the photo opportunities have dried up even though some residents’ basements haven’t — said the state will not consider spending its own money for flood victims until it’s clear how much cash the federal government will give.
My, it almost seems as if Miffed Romney thought those who lost their homes and businesses should stop being “victims” and mooching off the government and take some personal responsibility for their lives!
So to recap: there was a bunch of flooding, and the Democratic lege with which Romney was so “bipartisan” approved a bill meant to prevent future flooding. Romney vetoed it (as he had more than 800 other Democratic measures, 700 of which were then overridden). Then, two years later, a bunch of places flooded. And then, despite sitting on a billion in Katrina money and other cash reserves, Gov. Romney declined to provide aid to the affected citizens until he could see how much the feds would give. Then in the GOP primary debates he said the feds should send FEMA responsibilities back to the states. Then five people tried to ask him about it this morning and he ran away.
“Mr. Manager” Mitt Romney does not seem to be very good at this whole Mr. Managing thing.
Some people just don't know how to behave in an emergency.
The campaign manager for a New York Republican congressional candidate has been named as the man behind a series of fake tweets, one of which was picked up in the media, as Hurricane Sandy made its way through New York City Monday night.
Tripathi is listed as the campaign manager for Christopher R. Wight, the GOP candidate in New York’s 12 congressional district. Calls to both Wight’s campaign office and the cell phone listed for Tripathi on Wight’s campaign website, as well as the magazine, were not answered.
Tripathi also allegedly posted fake reports of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo being “trapped in Manhattan” and that Con Edison had shut down all electrical power in Manhattan, a statement the company refuted on Twitter.
As Buzzfeed reported, there have been no tweets from @ComfortablySmug as of Tuesday afternoon.
Four years ago, Tripathy anonymously wrote an installment of the magazine’s “Daily Intel” sex diary series, describing himself as a “Self-Obsessed, Emotionally Detached Hedge-Funder” and detailing a week in his lovelife that included “two acts of intercourse, one rough; one act of fellatio; two acts of phone sex with poorly treated ex; one collected phone number from lesbian; two acts of masturbation, both while fantasizing about ex-girlfriend.”
In a 2009 interview with the magazine, Tripathi said the difference between his online persona and himself was, that he was “not as blatantly an asshole in person, but I still have asshole tendencies.”
It's kind of a weird Monday morning. We here in Portland are in the middle of a week's worth of rain. Nothing unusual for these parts.
I am bathing in the afterglow of the Giants' sweep of the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series. Two years ago, when the Giants won their first World Series since moving to San Francisco, it really was a big thing. Not so big this year but still pretty big. Tonight the Niners play the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. We'll be cozily enscounced here at home while half the country is being pummeled by Sandy.
I've seen plenty of shots of places along the Jersey Shore where I've been. There was a weather guy being buffeted on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park, standing in front of the old convention center there, a few feet away from where Madame Marie would tell fortunes. Not so far from where my mom used to live until last September when she moved to be near my sister in Florida. Ironic that moving from New Jersey to Florida got her out of the way of hurricanes.
The explanation of why this is such a big storm is that the ocean waters are warmer. Hmmm, I wonder what caused that.
As I type this the sun is coming out. We'll get a few hours of sunlight until the next storm moves into Oregon from the Gulf of Alaska after dark.
Let's hope for the best for our friends and loved ones in the storm's path.