Extreme Weather Events

It should no longer be called climate change, as our climate has already changed.  It is estimated that, globally between September 2020 and February 2021, 12.5 million people were displaced by adverse impacts of climate change.  Weather is a connected system, but the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil will not set off a tornado in Texas, so instead you should think about a myriad of instruments playing different parts in a symphony orchestra.  Critics of climate change will say it’s part of a natural cycle and weird weather has been happening for many centuries or eons.  Others attribute the increase in weird weather to the presence of social media and the fact that virtually everyone owns a miniature camera that fits in their pocket.  Some of these disbelievers say that climate change is good for us, as it helps us to adapt, and others feel that it is already too late, and nothing can be done because it can’t be fixed.

A deadly late-season tornado outbreak produced catastrophic damage and numerous fatalities across portions of the Southern United States and Ohio Valley from the evening of December 10 to the early morning of December 11, 2021.  This devastating outbreak of severe weather included more than 30 tornado reports across six states stretching across the Mississippi Valley, Southeast and Midwest, and it was considered to be an extremely rare event this late into the year.  As many as 70 people are believed to have been killed in western Kentucky, and the death toll could exceed 100.  On December 15th, a widespread, damaging, unusual storm spawned a derecho (long-lived, straight-line wind storms associated with a fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms known as a mesoscale convective system) including many tornadoes from Arizona through the plains of the Midwest.

Even if you feel that the weather isn’t getting weirder, strange events are definitely becoming more common.  There is no denying that every year, heat waves are breaking new records, we are experiencing record droughts, causing massive wildfires.  We are also encountering record rainfalls, record snowfalls, and record-breaking hurricanes.  If you are worried about climate change, you need to understand Meteorological terms like the Arctic polar vortex, which is a large area of low pressure and cold air that forms a band of strong westerly winds in the stratosphere between about 10 and 30 miles above the North Pole every winter.  When the polar vortex expands, cold air is sent southward and the United States gets hit with outbreaks of cold temperatures.  You should also be concerned with the atmospheric river, which is a waterway in the sky that transports large volumes of water vapor into a region, and these end up causing columns of vapor which move with the weather, and they carry an amount of water vapor that is roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River.  When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.

The heat dome was the big story of the summer and that is created when an area of high pressure stays over the same area for days or even weeks, trapping very warm air underneath, rather like a lid on a pot.  The jet stream is a core of strong winds high above the Earth’s surface that helps to develop and steer areas of low pressure around.  A weather bomb occurs when there’s a sudden drop in pressure in a 24-hour period.  They are also called bomb cyclones or bombogenesis.  These storms intensify very rapidly and tend to deliver severe rain and ferocious winds that knock out electrical power.  The sudden drop in pressure that occurs in these storms is compared to a bomb going off.

Ice acts like a protective cover over the Earth and our oceans, because when the Sun shines on these bright white spots excess heat is reflected back into space thus keeping our planet cooler.  Glaciers around the world can range from ice that is several hundred to several thousand years old and provide a scientific record of how climate has changed over time.  Today, about 10% of land area on Earth is covered with glacial ice. Almost 90% is in Antarctica, while the remaining 10% is in the Greenland ice cap.  Rapid glacial melt in Antarctica and Greenland also influences ocean currents, as massive amounts of very cold glacial-melt water entering warmer ocean waters is slowing ocean currents.  As ice on land melts, sea levels will continue to rise.

If all the ice covering Antarctica, Greenland, and that contained in mountain glaciers around the world were to melt, sea level would rise about 67.5 meters (221.5 feet).  The ocean would cover all the coastal cities and land area would shrink significantly.  Florida is in the crosshairs of climate change, because of rising seas, a population crowded along the coast, porous bedrock, and the relatively common occurrence of tropical storms put more real estate and people at risk from storm surges aggravated by sea level rise in Florida, than any other state by far.  Florida’s high point is 345 feet above sea level, the lowest of all fifty states, thus it will never go completely underwater, even if all the ice sheets and glaciers on the planet melt.

Given the urgency of the climate crisis and for the reasons outlined above, with me being an architect, I will be building a treehouse and I will plan the construction around this tree in my backyard.  I need to be sure to protect the roots around the tree that I want to preserve.  I will design my house around the terrain, making sure that it accommodates all the limbs that are bursting forth and ensuring that it is lifted up, so as not to alter the lay of the land.  I will certainly be in touch with nature having a tree growing through my house.

Written for Reena’s Xploration Challenge #212, where today she has given us several pictures of trees growing inside of a house, without cutting a single branch.

19 thoughts on “Extreme Weather Events

  1. Cool looking treehouse!
    Yep, I’ve been a weather nerd since I was a kid, used to read weather textbooks for fun, had a little weather station in our yard around age 8 or 9. Still am fascinated by it. I can say for sure… you can’t look at one, say 75F day in December in Illinois or one December tornado or one record-breaking summer weekend in Seattle and say “that’s climate change”. But when those 75 degree winter days in Illinois or 108 degree days in Washington become normalish or when that spinoff tornado in December breaks all-time records for length and the number of tornadoes in places like Mississippi is double the historical norm, we can say climate IS changing.End of story. Now, climate has been changeable through the ages, so I don’t think we can say it’s entirely from our pollution. But there’s no question it adds to it at least and burning so very much coal and oil is in no way at all good for us or for the planet. High time we get serious about changing the way we do things for energy.

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  2. Very informative and interesting story, Jim. I’d love to see the rest of this house, as a tree-climber from way back, I really like the “reading room” with all the books and comfortable seating.

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  3. Good to learn about ice reflecting heat back into space. Your piece is informative as usual.

    Those leaders holding climate change conferences must be learning quite a lot themselves, but I doubt they have any real power to redirect things.

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