The climate change shit is hitting the fan

August 10, 2010

People, forgive me for interrupting our regularly scheduled programming on sex differences, but shit is out of whack in the world right now.

You’ve heard that Russia is in the grip of a monster heave wave that may have killed 15,000 people already? That wildfires are possibly kicking up radioactive smoke from Chernobyl? That the country has banned wheat exports for the rest of the year? You’ve heard that in Pakistan, intense seasonal monsoons have left 1,600 dead and 2 million homeless in what they’re calling “Pakistan’s Katrina“? You’ve read about the landslide in China that killed 700? (Make that 1,100.)

It’s all connected, my friends.

From Wired Science:

Russia’s killer heat wave and monster South Asian monsoon floods could be more than isolated examples of extreme weather. Though separated by a continent, they could be linked.

Monsoon rains drive air upward, and that air has to come down somewhere. It usually comes down over the Mediterranean, producing the region’s hot, dry climate. This year, some of that air seems to have gone north to Russia.

“We haven’t done the studies, but there’s very good reason to suspect that there’s a relationship,” said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “It’s simply related to the idea that there is a monsoon with very large circulation. There’s an upwards branch of it. There has to be a downwards branch somewhere else.”

Meteorologist Jeff Masters has become the go-to source for expert comment on these extreme weather events.

Here’s what he told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

[I]t’s been an exceptional year for the monsoon. And I think part of that is due to the fact that the temperatures have been so warm in that area. I mean, we’ve seen record heat in Asia this year. And when you have a very warm atmosphere, you can evaporate more water vapor into it, which potentially can cause more flooding. And, in fact, if you look at the past few decades, the amount of heavy precipitation events in the Indian monsoon has increased substantially. We’ve seen almost a doubling in some of these very heavy rainfall events. Although the total amount of water falling down has not changed much, it’s these extreme events that have increased, and that’s in line with what climate prediction models are showing will continue to happen this century as the climate warms.

What constitutes record heat?

Well, the entire world, if you look at the past six months, has experienced its warmest year on record, going back to the late 1800s when we first started making measurements. And so, it’s not a surprise that we might be seeing record heat waves and record high temperatures being set. In fact, there are seventeen countries in the world that have set their extreme all-time heat record this year. And that’s the most we’ve ever seen. The previous time was back in 2007, when fifteen countries set their all-time heat record. And those heat records this year include a 128-degree Fahrenheit reading in Pakistan, which is the highest temperature ever reliably recorded in the entire continent of Asia. So there’s been heat all over the globe.

Get ready for more extreme weather:

[W]hat we’re seeing this year is a preview of things to come. As the earth continues to warm, we’re going to see more extreme precipitation events, we’re going to see more heat waves, and this year is kind of a foretaste of that. Now, not every year is going to be like this. For instance, if you look at last year, it was a relatively quiet year as far as natural disasters go. The amount of dollars paid by the insurance companies was below average. But we’re going to start seeing more and more years like this year when you get these amazing events that cause tremendous death and destruction.

I wish I had something intelligent to say about all this. Or some idea what to do. But I don’t.

Update: Here is something I can do.


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