Extreme weather is upon us. Global warming is increasing the intensity, occurrence, size, duration and impact of many catastrophic events, including wildfires, droughts, heat waves, cold snaps, storms, lightning, flooding and seismic events such as earthquakes and associated tsunamis.
Ever larger numbers of people are getting hit directly by such events, as well as indirectly due to lack of fresh water, food, shelter, medicine, health care and emergency services.
Many lives were lost and many further lives are at stake. In a September 11, 2017, statement, AccuWeather predicts the joint economic costs of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma to be $290 billion, or 1.5% of the U.S. GDP.
The following three images show Hurricane Irma (left) and Hurricane Jose (right), and are forecasts for September 10, 2017. The image directly below shows that waves are forecast to be as high as 48 ft (or 14.63 m).
|Waves for September 10, 2017, 15:00 UTC (at green circle, 26°N, 80°W) are forecast as high as 48 ft or 14.63 m|
The image below shows that winds are forecasts to be as fast as 163 mph (or 263 km/h).
|Winds for Sept. 10, 2017, 12:00 UTC (green circle, 25.5°N, 80.5°W, 850 hPa) forecast as fast as 163 mph or 263 km/h|
|As much as 6.59 in (or 167.4 mm) of rain is forecast for Sept. 10, 2017, 6:00 UTC (3-hour accumulation, green circle)|
Earlier, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. Again, warnings were posted widely, such as the forecast below, posted at facebook.
|[ click on images to enlarge ]|
Extreme weather is amplified by changes to the Jet Streams. As the Arctic is warming more rapidly than the rest of the world, the temperature difference between the Arctic and the Equator is narrowing, which is slowing down the speed at which the Jet Streams circumnavigate the globe.
The Coriolis Effect makes Jet Streams circumnavigate the globe horizontally, and this used to keep cold air inside the Arctic and warmer air outside of the Arctic.
As the Jet Streams circumnavigate the globe at lower speeds, they increasingly move more vertically, allowing cold air from the Arctic to move down south more easily, and warm air to move up north more easily. This can make it easier for cyclones to move land-inward, where they previously would have kept following a path over the sea. This can also make it easier for weather conditions to stay the same for many days in an area, allowing huge amounts of rain water to accumulate in such an area.
This is illustrated by the image on the right, showing Jet Streams crossing the Equator at speeds as fast as 82 km/h or 51 mph (at the location marked by the green circle, at 250 mb) on August 27, 2017, 21:00 UTC. The image also shows Jet Streams crossing the Arctic at multiple locations.
Furthermore, numerous cyclones are visible on the image. As Earth retains more energy, winds and currents are getting stronger, waves are getting higher, etc., while higher temperatures are also causing winds to carry more moisture. This is especially the case for cyclones that are also stronger due to high sea surface temperatures.
The image below shows Hurricanes Jose, Irma and Katia lining up over the Atlantic Ocean on September 7, 2017.
The image below shows the hurricanes lining up over the Atlantic Ocean on September 8, 2017.
The image below shows Hurricane Jose off the coast of North America and Hurricane Maria underneath, with winds as fast as 149 mph or 241 km/h (at 850 hPa) and as much as 7.92 inch or 201.1 mm of rain (3-hour precipitation accumulation) at the location marked by the green circle.
In the video below, Paul Beckwith discusses the situation.
There can be many interactions between such events. Seismic events such as earthquakes, landslides and associated tsunamis, can be triggered by human activities in several ways.
After Sandy hit New York, in 2012, earthquakes hit the coast off Vancouver and links between the two events were discussed in this post.
Seismic events triggered by human activities
• Earthquakes can be triggered by fracking and by pools associated with fracking.
• Warming caused by people makes snow and ice melt, removing weight off the land and dumping it into the sea. This change in weight can trigger earthquakes.
• The Earth's crust can be flexed by storms. Large cyclones first suck up water, making sea level retreat and lifting up the crust. Then, a surge follows, while huge amounts of rainwater can add further weight, pushing the crust down again. This change can be felt over longer distances, triggering earthquakes across continents.
• Wild weather swings can be the result of changes in the jet streams caused by global warming. Huge sudden swings in temperature and in air pressure can make soils and ice go abruptly from expansion to compression and back again, which can cause cracks and landslides, and associated shockwaves, which can in turn trigger larger seismic events and open up methane craters with can come with large releases of methane.
Hurricane Harvey caused massive flooding in several States. The weight of the torrential rains brought by Hurricane Harvey caused Houston to sink by 2 centimeters. Water weighs about a ton per cubic meter and the flooding was so widespread that it "flexed Earth's crust", NASA scientist Chris Milliner said.
An earthquake with a magnitude of 8.1 on the Richter scale hit at 69.7 km depth, off the coast of Mexico, 87km SW of Pijijiapan, on September 8, 2017 at 04:49:21 UTC, at 15.068°N 93.715°W.
Numerous aftershocks are visible on the map below (screenshot taken September 13, 2017).
Rising temperatures are increasing the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere at a rate of 7% more water vapor for every 1°C warming. This is further speeding up warming, since water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas. Over the coming years, a huge amount of additional water vapor threatens to enter the atmosphere, due to the warming caused by albedo changes in the Arctic, methane releases from the seafloor, etc., as described at this page.
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as described at the Climate Plan.
Hurricane Damage Mitigation
A 2014 study by scientists led by Mark Jacobson calculates that large turbine arrays (300+ GW installed capacity) could diminish peak near-surface hurricane wind speeds by 25–41 m/s−1 (56–92 mph) and storm surge by 6–79% AND provide year-round clean and renewable electricity.
How many electric cars will be ready to move into Miami to provide emergency support in the wake of Hurricane Irma?
Storms can cause power outages, electricity poles can get damaged. Electricity poles can also be a traffic hazard (i.e. collisions can occur even if the pole hasn't fallen down, especially when streetlights fail). When damaged, power lines hanging off poles constitute electrical shock hazards and they can cause fires to ignite and wildfires to start.
Storms can also cause damage to backup generators and to fuel storage tanks, making it hard for emergency services to give the necessary support. Electric cars can supply electricity where needed, e.g. to power necessary air conditioning, autoclave and emergency equipment, such as in hospitals. After a tsunami hit Japan in 2011, electric cars moved in to provide electricity from their batteries, as described in many articles such as this one.
Wind turbines and solar panels are pretty robust. Hurricane Harvey hit the Papalote Creek Wind Farm near Corpus Christi, Texas. The wind farm had little or no damage, there was just a short delay in restarting, mostly due to damage to power lines. The Tesla roof that doubles as solar panels is much stronger than standard roofs. Have a look at this video.
Clean and renewable energy can provide more stable, robust and safe electricity in many ways. Centralized power plants are vulnerable, in that all eggs are in one basket, while there can be long supply and delivery lines. Many of the benefits of clean and renewable energy are mentioned on above image.
Join the Renewables group at facebook!
Note the colder area (blue) in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Harvey cooled the sea surface as water evaporated and warm moisture was added to the atmosphere. The cyclonic force also mixed colder water below the surface with warmer water at the surface, resulting in colder water at the surface. The combination image below shows the difference between August 20, 2017, and August 30, 2017.
[ click on images to enlarge ]
A number of geoengineering methods can be used to reduce sea surface temperatures and thus reduce the intensity of hurricanes. Methods include upwelling associated with ocean fertilization and with ocean tunnels, marine cloud brightening and increasing and brightening bubbles in the wake of vessels, as discussed at the geoengineering group at facebook.
Besides cooling the sea surface, there's also the upwelling of nutrients that can help combat ocean stratification. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. As the water warms, it also tends to form a layer at the surface that does not mix well with cooler, nutrient-rich water below, depriving phytoplankton of some of the nutrients needed in order for phytoplankton to grow (and take up carbon).
Some of these methods are also discussed at this 2011 page, which also mentions that more research is needed into the impact of such methods. Of course, possible application should go hand in hand with dramatic reductions in emissions including a rapid shift to 100% clean and renewable energy.
Similarly, the necessary shift to clean and renewable energy in itself will not be enough to avoid catastrophic warming, and it should go hand in hand with further lines of action to remove pollution and to cool the Arctic Ocean, as described at the Climate Plan.
• Climate Plan
• How much warming did and could people cause?
• Did Sandy trigger major earthquakes off Vancouver?
• Geophysicist: Weight of Harvey rains caused Houston to sink
• As Harvey breaks rainfall record, Houston imposes a curfew and death toll climbs to 18
• Historic Hurricane Harvey's Recap
• Hurricane Katia strikes Mexico, killing at least two, as the nation still reels from a massive earthquake
• Deadly quake and Hurricane Katia a one-two punch for Mexico (September 8, 2017).
Updated: Death toll now at 90 as aftershocks rattle southern Mexico (September 11, 2017).
• AccuWeather predicts economic cost of Harvey, Irma to be $290 billion
• After Disaster Hit Japan, Electric Cars Stepped Up
• In Big Test of Wind Farm Durability, Texas Facility Quickly Restarts After Harvey
• Tesla Unveils Powerwall 2 & Solar Roof
• Taming hurricanes with arrays of offshore wind turbines, by Mark Z. Jacobson et al. (2014)
• The Solutions Project
• Weakening of hurricanes via marine cloud brightening (MCB), by John Latham, Ben Parkes, Alan Gadian, Stephen Salter (2012)
• Multiple Benefits Of Ocean Tunnels
• Oxygenating the Arctic
• Reducing hurricane intensity using arrays of Atmocean Inc.'s wave-driven upwelling pumps
• Could bright, foamy wakes from ocean ships combat global warming?