Killer Heat Waves and Floods Linked to Climate Change

More than 5 million affected by flooding in Pakistan Sept 2011 - a repeat of 2010.
More than 5 million affected by flooding in Pakistan Sept 2011 – a repeat of 2010.

“The first law of humanity is not to kill your children.”

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 27 2013 (IPS)

Killer heat waves, floods and storms are increasingly caused by climate change, new research reveals.

Scientists in Germany say they have found how greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are helping to trap the jet stream, resulting in extraordinary weather such as the 2010 Pakistan flood and the 2011 heat wave in the United States.

Human-driven climate change repeatedly disturbs the flow of atmospheric waves around the globe’s Northern hemisphere, said lead author Vladimir Petoukhov of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.rossby.waves1_

Giant atmospheric waves called Rossby waves are meanders in the strong, high-altitude winds known as jet streams and have a major influence on weather. These wave movements are caused by the difference in temperatures between the cold air from the Arctic and hot air from the tropics.

When the waves shift north, they suck warm air from the tropics to Europe, Russia, or the U.S., and when they swing down, they do the same thing with cold air from the Arctic, said Petoukhov.

“During several recent extreme weather events, these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks,” he said. “So instead of bringing in cool air after having brought warm air in before, the heat just stays.”

This unnatural pattern is due to human heating of the climate through emissions of greenhouse gases that result from burning fossil fuels, according to the study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

However, this heating of the atmosphere is wildly uneven. The Arctic is warming two to three times faster than the global temperature rise of 0.8C and that affects the Rossby waves and is slowing the jet stream.

“(Our research) complements previous research that already linked such phenomena to climate change,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a co-author of the study. Continue reading

From Sandy: ‘Saddened by Damages; Surprised You are Shocked’

I am saddened by the damage and loss of life but am truly surprised you are so shocked by the extent and severity.

Haven’t you noticed hurricanes, cyclones and other storms have become more powerful in recent years?  And that extreme weather events like record flooding, droughts and heat waves are happening more frequently? In 2012 extreme weather records were broken all over the US. In 2011 there were 14 separate billion-dollar-plus weather disasters in the US including flooding, hurricanes and tornados.

Read full post at Hurricane Sandy Speaks (crosspost)

Now Historic Flooding Hits Southern Australia

[UPDATE 19 Jan – 25 % of state of Victoria underwater]

While flood levels drop in Queensland and Brisbane, Australia’s state of Victoria has now been hit with historic levels of flooding.

A strong La Nina enhanced by global warming seems to be behind the record flooding in Australia, Brazil, Sri Lanka and elsewhere as documented in my earlier article. Part of the reason for the severity of the flooding is that the atmosphere now contains 4 per cent more water vapour as a result of the increased global temperature of roughly 0.8C.

As the planet continues to warm from the burning of fossil fuels floods will get worse, but so will droughts.