Adam Sobel: Hurricanes, Tropical Storms, and Disasters. The Sunshine State of Florida During the 1950s and 1960s during the Great Hurricane Era
Adam H. Sobel is a professor at Columbia University and is an atmospheric scientist who studies the risks and extreme events of human society. Sobel is the host of the podcast “Deep Convection” and the author of “Storm Surge,” a book about Superstorm Sandy. Follow him on Twitter: @profadamsobel. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. CNN has more opinion on it.
The trend towards La Nia might be an accident, a pileup of natural fluctuations, and should reverse at some point. Since El Nio years, when the eastern equatorial Pacific is warmer than normal, tend to see relatively few Atlantic hurricanes, this would be good for the Atlantic. The reason why this season was expected to be active is because La Nia years tend to have more Atlantic hurricanes than Pacific ones.
Then, almost nothing happened. The peak of the Hurricane season was well into September and there were only a few weak storms. Then came wham. Fiona took down Puerto Rico’s power grid on September 18 (almost five years to the day after Maria had all but destroyed it) and then much of Nova Scotia’s in Canada, and then Ian, after knocking out power to all of Cuba, made landfall in Florida as a dangerous Category 4, one of the most destructive storms ever to hit the continental US, and decimated a wide swath of the Sunshine State.
The storm may have caused as much as $47 billion in insured losses, making it the costliest storm in Florida’s history. Since most of the losses due to flooding are not covered by private insurance, the total loss is likely to be much higher. The storm resulted in at least 76 deaths in the state.
Some say the Atlantic increase is just the latest swing of a natural cycle. The 1950s and 1960s were very active with many catastrophic US landfalls. (In the Northeast, for example, back-to-back hurricanes Carol and Edna struck in 1954, leading to the construction of storm surge barriers in Stamford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, all of which still operate today.)
On the other hand, the critical phrase in the above paragraph is “over most of the planet.” The exception are the basins in the North Atlantic, that make up the majority of the risk for hurricanes in the US. In the North Atlantic, there has been a clear increase from the quiet 1970s and 1980s to a much more active period, on average, since the mid-’90s.
I think the evidence that models are incorrect is compelling, and that, at least for the next few decades, there will be two separate reasons as to why the models are wrong.
Once these aerosols were cleaned up by legislation in the US in the 1950s to 1970s and then in Europe, the Atlantic was able to warm up again rapidly, now also charged by greenhouse gas increases.
New science makes it harder to project the Atlantic’s future. The last three years of La Nia conditions in the east were part of a long term trend that has persisted over the last 50 years. Our climate models have failed to predict this, instead predicting that global warming should cause a trend toward more El Niño-like conditions.
The climate crisis would amplify extreme weather, making it deadlier and more frequent, according to scientists. New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister James Shaw took to social media on Sunday night and thanked those assisting with flood relief efforts.
But that science is largely missing from public weather forecasts that millions of people in the U.S. rely on. As weather gets more severe, scientists and forecasters are having a hard time explaining the role of climate change.
Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who studies extreme weather, says that federal forecasters such as those at the National Hurricane Center could also be useful in conveying climate information. He thinks that if they were included in forecasts and warnings people would trust them more, as they would be seen as more credible when a storm is imminent.
The chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it’s difficult to include climate data in real-time weather warnings. Kapnick has worked as a research scientist and done extreme-event attribution studies.
NOAA is currently reviewing how it communicates with the public about climate change, she says, in part because of a flood of interest from the public and from local officials who are grappling with more severe weather.
Rhome was questioned by CNN’s Don Lemon if he was able to link climate change to a single event. On a cumulative basis, climate change might be making storms worse. I don’t want to link it to any one event.
Climate change caused the storm to drop more rain than it would have without it, according to a study conducted by Wehner and other climate scientists.
New Zealand weather forecast during a severe rainfall event on January 27th: The most rainfall had ever been seen by an Auckland city or the Northland region
There is interest in doing things like flood-proofing your home and more support for electric vehicles and policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s unclear how long those attitudes last after a climate-driven disaster. Figuring that out is an active area of research. Wong-Parodi thinks that there is a window of time during which you could help people better understand what risks are and link them to climate change.
“I think that’s really important as we move forward, because it has implications for how we may want to communicate to the public about these types of events,” says Wong-Parodi.
The UK experienced a taste of weather on July 19, 2022, which is when it will happen again. The average temperature was 40.3 degrees Celsius, which beat the previous record by more than one and a half degrees. Dozens of homes in east London were destroyed by fires, while elsewhere in the country, the heat pushed the power grid close to the point of failure. It was the deadliest year for heat since 2003 when 2,800 elderly people died during the summer heat waves, according to the Office for National Statistics.
New Zealand’s climate change minister, James Shaw, wasted no time in pointing the finger at the root cause of the weather disasters, telling the New Zealand parliament: “This is climate change.”
On Monday, New Zealand’s weather authority issued a red heavy rain warning – the highest level reserved for extreme weather events – for Auckland and the nearby Northland region for the coming days.
Land slips, which are similar to slide, would be put at risk by the heavy rain.
He said rivers can rise quickly, roads can fall away, and communities can be cut off when there is a significant rain event.
The country’s largest city received 9 inches of rain on January 27th. That marked the most rainfall the city had ever seen in a day, and it was the equivalent of their entire summer’s worth of rain.
There can be big changes in local climate if you change the wind direction or wind speed. Climate modeling shows the westerly winds are going to get stronger. “Whether or not they lie over New Zealand so much is a tricky one to answer, because there’s a few moving parts of that story, but the broad picture is slightly stronger winds through time,” he says. An increase in strength is expected to result in more rain for the west coast and less for the east.
New Zealand is expecting heavy rain on Sunday as Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle approaches: a man missing after he is believed to be missing
Meanwhile, New Zealand police said Sunday that the body of a man declared missing after being swept away by floodwaters Friday is believed to have been found.
A drone operator located the body in the Onewhero area, south of Auckland, about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) downstream from where he went missing, police said.
“Obviously there were a number of homes damaged by flooding but also extensive earth movements,” he told public broadcaster TVNZ. Some 350 people needed emergency accommodation, he added.
More than 2,000 people spent the night at the airport due to the flooding. The international terminal was operational on Sunday after it was not available on Saturday.
Heavy rain watches have been issued for northern New Zealand starting on Sunday as Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle approaches with the threat of heavy rain and high wind gusts.
We are expecting 100 to 300mm. [of rainfall] for many parts of the North Island’s north and eastern sides, with even greater totals if Gabrielle stalls or slows down,” Duncan said. “This rain will cause more slips/landslides, road closures, flight cancellations and possibly damage more homes as we saw in January.”
Another heavy rain watch has also been issued for the Coromandel Peninsula and for Gisborne, where rainfall totals of 200 mm to 400 mm or more are possible.
Winds are likely to gust over 100 kph (62 mph) and could reach 150 kph (93 mph) in the higher terrain and along the immediate coastline. The country will be hit from Monday to Tuesday by the worst of the storm.
Murray said that a storm brings damaging wind, heavy rain and swell. The trees are more likely to topple as the ground is already sodden.
Along with wind and rain, there will also be heavy swells along the coastline for eastern areas and a storm surge of close to half a meter on top of that.
The biggest influence on the regional climate are the winds that blow over the country from west to east. These deposit huge amounts of rain on the west coast of the south island. Milford Sound, the famous fjord there that’s popular with tourists, is one of the wettest places on Earth, receiving a mean annual rainfall of 6.8 meters. The rain shadow that left the east coast relatively dry was caused by the mountains of the island forcing the air out of the air.