Saturday, January 06, 2018

Get Used to Saying ‘Bomb Cyclone.’  This Is Our Climate Now.

 Car driving through flood waters in Boston (Credit: Reuters / Brian Snyder) Click to Enlarge.
Now that one of the strongest nor’easters on record has swirled off to Canada, it’s time to talk about what everyone was thinking during the storm:  Is this just what happens now?

Short answer:  yes.  Get used to it.  Wild storms like this week’s massive coastal cyclone will be part of winters in the Anthropocene.
The storm ravaged a swath of the country from Florida to Maine.  In South Carolina rare snow blanketed downtown Charleston.  In South Florida stunned iguanas fell from the trees.

Boston also witnessed its largest coastal flood in history.  Amid the usual scenes of buried cars and cute dogs playing in the snow, we also saw waves crashing through a seawall into homes and fire trucks plowing through flooded streets on their way to high-water rescues.  At one point, the National Weather Service in Boston warned people not to ride the icebergs that were floating in on the high tide.  That’s … unusual.

Storms like this one have always threatened to flood coasts.  Seven of New York City’s 10 worst coastal floods on record have been from nor’easters.  With rising seas and warming wintertime oceans juicing the power of cyclones, there’s good reason to expect that huge winter storms will pose an increasingly severe risk to coastal communities in the Northeast.  In fact, it’s exactly what we expect will happen with climate change.

It’s normal for winter storms to gather strength in a hurry — dozens of them do so every year around the world.  But the “bomb cyclone” intensified at a rate far exceeding any storm to come close to the East Coast since the advent of weather satellites in the 1970s.  After a day of searching, the National Weather Service found a similar storm from 1989 about 600 miles off the coast that didn’t affect land.

Atlantic Ocean temperatures right offshore were as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal for early January, causing hurricane-force winds and snow squalls so intense they fired off lightning bolts over parts of New York and Rhode Island.  Forecasters dispatched a Hurricane Hunter airplane to investigate the storm.
Increasingly, it seems like the only time you hear a climate denier talk about climate change is when a snowstorm hits.  Hey, look! It’s really cold outside.  This snowball sure isn’t warm; therefore the world isn’t warming.

Winter may be the last refuge of climate deniers, so it makes sense that they’ll work harder to seize on cold-weather storms.  It’s a window into their view of the world.  Appearance is enough evidence.  It’s all that really matters.  Given what’s at stake in the oceans and on land, such views should be seen for what they are:  a threat to our safety, just as real as any bomb.

Read more at Get Used to Saying ‘Bomb Cyclone.’  This Is Our Climate Now.

No comments:

Post a Comment