‘New Normal’ Not Just For Economy; Weather Changes Also Occurring

A view of the Gavins Point Dam spillway on May 11. This flow is nothing compared to the 85,000 cubic feet per second that are expected to be released through the dam by next week. (Photo by Kelly Hertz.)

In the South, there has been an incredible string of devastating storms.

Closer to home in Yankton, releases at the Gavins Point Dam are expected to reach well beyond record levels next week because of heavy rains and above-normal snowpack in Montana and North Dakota.

Scientists I’ve spoken with are always careful not to say a particular weather event was caused by climate change related to human activity. However, scientists have been vocal about how climate change is or could be a contributing factor to the weather events we’ve witnessed around the world . After all, one of the things associated with climate change, according to the research, is extreme weather events like torrential rainfall, droughts, etc.

Oil companies, especially, have spent a lot of money trying to discredit climate change science. However, the scientific consensus on the subject is overwhelming, even if the public consensus is not.

I came across this Reuters article today, which addresses the “new normal” we are seeing in regard to weather events:

WASHINGTON, May 18 (Reuters) – Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a “new normal” of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.

“It’s a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we’re seeing,” climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.

“We are used to certain conditions and there’s a lot going on these days that is not what we’re used to, that is outside our current frame of reference,” Hayhoe said on a conference call with other experts, organized by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.

An upsurge in heavy rainstorms in the United States has coincided with prolonged drought, sometimes in the same location, she said, noting that west Texas has seen a record-length dry period over the last five years, even as there have been two 100-year rain events.

Hayhoe, other scientists, civic planners and a manager at the giant Swiss Re reinsurance firm all cited human-caused climate change as an factor pushing this shift toward more extreme weather.

While none would blame climate change for any specific weather event, Hayhoe said a background of climate change had an impact on every rainstorm, heat wave or cold snap.

“What we’re seeing is the new normal is constantly evolving,” said Nikhil da Victoria Lobo of Swiss Re’s Global Partnerships team. “Globally what we’re seeing is more volatility … there’s certainly a lot more integrated risk exposure.”

Read the rest here.

The climate change science relating to tornadoes still has a ways to go, according to Andrew Freedman at the Washington Post:

As I wrote last month, climate change is expected to change key ingredients needed for tornado formation (for example, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere worldwide is already on the rise, and this can contribute to greater atmospheric instability), but there hasn’t been any trend in observational data to suggest that tornado behavior – either frequency, strength, or regions they typically strike – is shifting. Tornadoes are extremely capricious events, and teasing out statistically significant trends from historical records is very difficult.

Climate scientists have already demonstrated trends in other extreme weather and climate events, including floods and heat waves, showing that manmade climate change is tilting the odds in favor of their occurrence. However, such research is lacking when it comes to tornadoes, with computer modeling studies suggesting that conditions may become more favorable for tornadoes as the climate warms, but perhaps not by very much.

Read the rest of his interesting blog on the subject here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s