The National Hurricane Center has run out of names for tropical storms this year and has now moved on to the Greek alphabet during an extremely active hurricane season. Late Monday night, Tropical Storm Beta became the ninth named storm to make landfall. That's the first time so many named storms have made landfall since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was president, according to NBC News.
- Extreme Weather Suggests Future Climate Crisis Is Already Here ... ›
- Atlantic Faces Fifth 'Above-Normal' Hurricane Season in a Row ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
The Florida panhandle, the Alabama coast and Mississippi are seeing Hurricane Sally batter its shores Wednesday morning as the slow-moving hurricane starts to make landfall. The storm intensified overnight as it churned slowly over the Gulf of Mexico. It's expected to be a Category 2 storm when it fully makes landfall Wednesday during the mid-morning hours from 8 a.m. to noon, according to AccuWeather.
- Climate Change May Be Slowing Hurricanes, Leading to More ... ›
- Climate Denier Is Named to Leadership Role at NOAA - EcoWatch ›
- What Is a Hurricane Storm Surge, and Why Is It So Dangerous ... ›
By Anthony C. Didlake Jr.
Of all the hazards that hurricanes bring, storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property along the coast. It can sweep homes off their foundations, flood riverside communities miles inland, and break up dunes and levees that normally protect coastal areas against storms.
But what exactly is storm surge?
What Storm Surge Looks Like From Shore<p>As a hurricane reaches the coast, it pushes a huge volume of ocean water ashore. This is what we call storm surge.</p><p>This surge appears as a gradual rise in the water level as the storm approaches. Depending on the size and track of the hurricane, storm surge flooding can last for several hours. It then recedes after the storm passes.</p><p>Water level heights during a hurricane can reach 20 feet or more above normal sea level. With powerful waves on top of it, a hurricane's storm surge can cause catastrophic damage.</p>
What Determines How High a Storm Surge Gets?<p>Storm surge begins over the open ocean. The strong winds of a hurricane push the ocean waters around and cause water to pile up under the storm. The low air pressure of the storm also plays a small role in lifting the water level. The height and extent of this pile of water depend on the strength and size of the hurricane.</p><p>As this pile of water moves toward the coast, other factors can change its height and extent.</p>
Other Factors That Shape Storm Surge<p>Ocean tides – caused by the gravity of the moon and sun – can also strengthen or weaken the impact of a storm surge. So, it's important to know the timing of the local tides compared to the hurricane landfall.</p><p>At high tide, the water is already at an elevated height. If landfall happens at high tide, the storm surge will cause even higher water levels and bring more water further inland. The Carolinas saw those effects when Hurricane Isaias hit at close to high tide on Aug. 3. Isaias brought a storm surge of about <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/08/03/isaias-path-carolinas-northeast/" target="_blank">4 feet at Myrtle Beach</a>, South Carolina, but the water level was <a href="https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/waterlevels.html?id=8661070&units=standard&bdate=20200802&edate=20200804&timezone=GMT&datum=MLLW&interval=6&action=" target="_blank">more than 10 feet</a> above normal.</p>
How a storm surge and high tide add up to coastal flooding. The COMET Program/UCAR and National Weather Service<p><a href="https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2680/new-study-finds-sea-level-rise-accelerating/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sea level rise</a> is another growing concern that influences storm surge.</p><p>As water warms, <a href="https://sealevel.nasa.gov/understanding-sea-level/global-sea-level/thermal-expansion" target="_blank">it expands</a>, and that has slowly raised sea level over the past century as <a href="https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/global-temperatures" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">global temperatures have risen</a>. Freshwater from melting of ice sheets and glaciers also adds to sea level rise. Together, they <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevate the background ocean height</a>. When a hurricane arrives, the higher ocean means storm surge can bring water further inland, to a more dangerous and widespread effect.</p>
- Rising Seas May Bring More Superstorms - EcoWatch ›
- How Climate Change is Influencing Storm Surge - EcoWatch ›
- 'Unsurvivable Storm Surge' Expected as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf ... ›
- Hurricane Sally Makes Landfall Slowly With 'Life-Threatening' Flooding Expected - EcoWatch ›
- 'Fossil Fuel Companies Knew': Honolulu Files Lawsuit Over Climate ... ›
- City of Hoboken Files Climate Suit Against Big Oil - EcoWatch ›
- Climate Litigation Against Big Oil Heats Up - EcoWatch ›
By Kenny Stancil
The city of Hoboken on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against multiple Big Oil players—including ExxonMobil, incorporated in New Jersey—joining an increasing number of state and local governments using litigation in efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for defrauding the public about foreseen climate crisis damages and to make companies "pay their fair share" of the costs of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a warming planet.
- Big Oil Is in Big Trouble - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Blasted for 'Morally Bankrupt' Multibillion-Dollar Big Oil ... ›
- Big Oil Taking $1.9 Billion in CARES Act Tax Breaks - EcoWatch ›
- Charleston, SC Becomes First City in U.S. South to Sue Big Oil for Climate Costs - EcoWatch ›
By Jamie Smith Hopkins
Disasters are stressful. Our warming world keeps adding fuel to the fires — and floods and hurricanes, among other calamities. What can be done about the trauma that follows?
- What Wildfires Do to Our Minds - EcoWatch ›
- Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted: Climate and Mental ... ›
- Global Warming Will Mean Mental Shock and Adversity for Nearly ... ›
The full extent of the damage wrought by the storm formerly known as Hurricane Laura will only continue to grow as the weakened storm continues inland and pollution from petrochemical plants and other industrial sites is discovered.
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ... ›
- Pence Dismisses Climate Action at RNC as Hurricane Hits Gulf Coast ›
- 'Unsurvivable Storm Surge' Expected as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf ... ›
When Hurricane Laura struck the Gulf Coast early on Thursday with record-setting winds and storm surges that caused flooding, it was bearing down on an area full of chemical plants. The fears about having toxic chemicals in an area increasingly vulnerable to tropical storms are playing out as a chemical plant caught fire and sent toxic plumes into the air throughout the day, as The New York Times reported.
- Pence Offers 'Prayers' as Hurricane Laura Hits Gulf Coast While ... ›
- Texas Petroleum Chemical Plant Explosion, and Our Petrochemical ... ›
The psychological toll of climate change-fueled disasters, now compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, is mounting and the U.S. is unprepared. These are the findings of a project by the Center for Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations, in collaboration with 10 local and regional outlets.
By Jake Johnson
Just hours before Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm with wind speed surpassing that of Katrina, Vice President Mike Pence delivered a Republican National Convention speech Wednesday night in which he mentioned climate action once only to reject it, continuing the GOP event's ignoring or downplaying of an emergency wreaking havoc and devastation in real time.
<p>Speaking live from Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Pence said at the beginning of his remarks that his "prayers are with" those affected by the hurricane <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-storm-laura-energy/stronger-hurricane-laura-aims-at-heart-of-u-s-oil-refining-industry-idUSKBN25M23P" target="_blank">set to strike at the heart</a> of the U.S. oil and gas industry, sparking <a href="https://twitter.com/BiologistDan/status/1298778265147105280" target="_blank">warnings</a> of a looming "environmental nightmare."</p><p>"This is a serious storm," added the vice president, who said the White House is "working closely with authorities in the states that will be impacted."</p><p>The one time Pence mentioned climate in his remarks was during an attack on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who the vice president said wants to "abolish fossil fuels, end fracking, and impose a regime of climate change regulations." Biden's climate plan, <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/07/14/more-work-do-major-step-forward-progressives-welcome-bidens-2-trillion-green-energy" target="_blank">viewed</a> by green groups as insufficient but as a step in the right direction, calls for new regulations on the polluting oil and gas industry but would not end fracking or abolish fossil fuels.</p><p>Pence also touted Trump's <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/06/26/incredibly-reckless-trump-moves-expand-fossil-fuel-drilling-alaskas-western-arctic" target="_blank">destructive efforts</a> to ramp up domestic fossil fuel production and <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/18/the-myth-of-u-s-energy-independence-has-gone-up-in-smoke/" target="_blank">falsely</a> claimed the U.S. has achieved "energy independence" under the current administration.</p>
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">3 nights. 69 speakers. <br><br>Now just one mention of climate change: Mike Pence saying they won’t pass a “regime of climate change regulations.” <br><br>Meanwhile...well, just watch the weather channel. <a href="https://t.co/xAoHaqqQ31">https://t.co/xAoHaqqQ31</a></p>— Jamie Henn (@jamieclimate) <a href="https://twitter.com/jamieclimate/status/1298836189277872128?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 27, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
- Pence Praises Texas for Reopening Despite Surge in COVID-19 ... ›
- 4 Things to Know About Mike Pence's Environmental Record ... ›
- Trump RNC Speech Silent on Climate Change, Continues Bitter ... ›
- Hurricane Laura Causes Chemical Fire, CDC Warns of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - EcoWatch ›
- Pollution From Oil Industry Hit by Hurricane Laura Remains Unknown - EcoWatch ›
- Former Pence Aid Endorses Biden, Says Trump Cared More About Re-election Than Stopping Coronavirus - EcoWatch ›
In the middle of the night, Hurricane Laura made landfall, hitting the Gulf Coast in Louisiana with record-setting 150 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center, which warned of an "unsurvivable" storm surge.
- Louisiana Faces Faster Levels of Sea-Level Rise Than Any Other ... ›
- Pollution From Oil Industry Hit by Hurricane Laura Remains Unknown - EcoWatch ›
- What Is a Hurricane Storm Surge, and Why Is It So Dangerous? - EcoWatch ›
By Jeff Berardelli
From the historic heat wave and wildfires in the West, to the massive derecho that tore through the middle of the nation, to the record-breaking pace of this year's hurricane season, the unprecedented and concurrent extreme conditions resemble the chaotic climate future scientists have been warning us about for decades — only it's happening right now.
<div id="004a5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="809799a50bac6ced919c6da89ce0efec"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1297987100491554816" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Multiple extremes resemble the chaotic climate future scientists have been warning us about for decades — only it's… https://t.co/CjhLfao5rc</div> — CBS News (@CBS News)<a href="https://twitter.com/CBSNews/statuses/1297987100491554816">1598299214.0</a></blockquote></div><p>To be sure, these events are not all related to each other, but the one thing they do have in common is that climate change makes each one more likely. The simple explanation is that there's more energy in the system and that energy is expended in the form of more extreme heat, fire, wind and rain.</p><p>It may be tempting to look at these extremes as a "new normal," but Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says while it may be new, it won't be normal.</p><p>"For some time we have talked about a 'new normal' but the issue is that it keeps changing. It does not stop at a new state. That change is what is so disruptive," he said.</p>
California Wildfires<p>The fires unfolding in California right now have no parallel in modern times. With more than 1 million acres burned in just one week, the season is already historic with more acres burned in this past week than is typical of an entire year. Two of the state's top three largest fires on record are burning at the same time — the LNU and SCU complex fires — with the likelihood that one of these will take over the top spot soon.</p><p>As of Monday morning, CalFire <a href="https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/" target="_blank">reports</a> over 7,000 fires have burned more than 1.4 million acres this season, overwhelming resources to the point where many of the smaller fires are being allowed to burn. CalFire stated that to fight these fires to the maximum of their ability, the agency would need nearly <a href="https://weatherwest.com/archives/7459" target="_blank">10 times</a> more firefighting resources than are available.</p><p>As is the case in any natural disaster, the cause can be traced to multiple coinciding events. In this case, the spark for most of these fires was a <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/lightning-siege-hits-california-with-nearly-12000-strikes-in-a-week-2020-08-22/" target="_blank">siege of lightning strikes</a> as a result of moisture drawn into California from two decaying tropical systems in the eastern Pacific, which ignited dry brush.</p><p>Daniel Swain is a well-known climate scientist who specializes in studying the link between climate change and weather in the West at the University of California, Los Angeles. In a <a href="https://weatherwest.com/archives/7459" target="_blank">blog post</a> he described how even someone like him, well-versed in climate disaster, is shocked by the current situation: "I'm essentially at a loss for words to describe the scope of the lightning-sparked fire outbreak that has rapidly evolved in northern California – even in the context of the extraordinary fires of recent years. It's truly astonishing."</p>
<div id="9db58" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ab45cd0dbe96672e8d896463f1d8fcca"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1296620330861989889" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">"Vapor pressure deficit" (gap between how much moisture *could* be in the air vs. how much is *actually* there) is… https://t.co/LXKN0hUQLi</div> — Daniel Swain (@Daniel Swain)<a href="https://twitter.com/Weather_West/statuses/1296620330861989889">1597973351.0</a></blockquote></div><p>According to the paper, "Nearly all of the increase in summer forest-fire area during 1972–2018 was driven by increased vapor pressure deficit."</p>
Midwest Derecho<p>A derecho is a particularly fierce and long-lasting line of thunderstorms, often causing winds over 75 mph. While these weather events are common during summer, the <a href="https://www.weather.gov/dmx/2020derecho" target="_blank">event</a> that took place August 10 in Iowa and Illinois seemed otherworldly.</p><p>The squall line <a href="https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147154/derecho-flattens-iowa-corn" target="_blank">plowed a path</a> 800 miles long and 40 miles wide through communities and corn fields, damaging <a href="https://www.radioiowa.com/2020/08/11/43-of-iowa-corn-soybean-crop-hit-by-mondays-storm/" target="_blank">43%</a> of Iowa's corn and soybean crop and causing nearly <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/iowa-storm-derecho-seeking-4-billion-dollars-disater-aid/" target="_blank">$4 billion in damage</a>. Winds are estimated to have reached up to 140 mph, with hurricane-force winds <a href="https://cbs2iowa.com/news/local/how-does-the-2020-iowa-derecho-compare-to-others" target="_blank">lasting</a> 40 to 50 minutes.</p><p>At first glance it would seem that this is just a freak natural event, with no real connection to climate change, but that may not be the case. While there is not much research on the connection between climate change and derechos, one <a href="https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2017AGUFM.A12C..01P/abstract" target="_blank">recent paper</a> found some alarming results.</p><p>The research team used a climate model to simulate mesoscale convective systems (MCSs), a technical term for masses of thunderstorms, in a warming world. These MCSs are the parent structures which sometimes spawn derechos. Using a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario, the paper concluded: "At the end of the century, the number of intense MCSs are projected to more than triple in North America during summer due to more favorable environmental conditions." </p><p>The research also found that MCSs' maximum hourly precipitation rates will increase by 15% to 40% in the future, due to a warmer atmosphere loaded with more moisture. "The moisture source for MCSs in the central U.S. is predominantly the Gulf of Mexico and climate change will increase the low-level jet stream moisture transport from the Gulf northward," explains lead author Dr. Andreas Prein, from the National Center For Atmospheric Research.</p><p>"How this all relates to changes in derecho frequency and intensity is poorly understood," Prein admits, but now that climate models are capable of modeling this, he plans to make it a priority in future studies.</p><p>While Mann did not comment specifically on derechos, he does feel extreme events are not properly captured in current climate models. "I have argued that the climate models are likely underpredicting the impact on the frequency and severity of various types of extreme summer weather events due to deficiencies in their ability to capture some of the relevant jet stream dynamics."</p>
Hurricane Season<p>Having two tropical systems like Marco and Laura in late August, the beginning of the peak of hurricane season, is not abnormal, even if the storms are very close to one another. But what is abnormal is the record-setting pace of the current hurricane season. So far the Atlantic season has tallied 14 named storms, 10 days ahead of record pace. That's two more than the average number for an entire season, which runs through the end of November. Seasonal forecasters are <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hurricane-season-2020-forecast-extremely-active-24-named-storms/" target="_blank">predicting up to 25 named systems</a> this year, which would place second behind 2005.</p><p>While there are many factors that contribute to how active a hurricane season will be, the most obvious is the warm water which fuels storm development. This year, nearly the entire tropical Atlantic Basin is above normal. This is part of a long-term trend of warming in which Atlantic sea surface temperatures have<a href="https://twitter.com/ClimateCentral/status/1005109784750776320/photo/1" target="_blank"> increased</a> by around 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, and the measure of <a href="https://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/" target="_blank">Ocean Heat Content</a> hits record highs each and every year.</p><p>Warmer ocean temperatures do not guarantee more storms, but they do tip the balance, giving storms that extra boost to develop. After years of <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/07/how-climate-change-is-making-hurricanes-more-dangerous/" target="_blank">research</a>, climate science is still not sure how a warming climate will impact the number of systems in the future, but there is consensus that, in general, hurricanes will get stronger and the strongest, most destructive hurricanes will get more frequent. Since major hurricanes — <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/hurricane-categories-what-the-ratings-scale-means/" target="_blank">Category 3 and greater</a> — are responsible for 85% of the damage, a warmer climate is likely to have devastating economic and human consequences.</p>
Compound Events<p>Within research circles and among emergency planners, the concept of <span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-multiple-disasters-at-once-study-warns/" target="_blank">compound threats</a></span> has become a very popular subject. For years now scientists have warned that increasing population, exposure and vulnerability combined with extreme events spiked by climate change, would overwhelm resources and compromise emergency response. Experts argue we are now seeing that unfold in real time.</p><p>"These equally profound events occurring in different parts of the country at the same time — what we call compounded or connected extremes — run the risk of putting significant strain on resources, budgets, and the supply chain," said Bowen. </p><p>This is a topic often missed in general discussions of climate change. It may seem easy to dismiss a few degree rise in global temperatures as inconsequential. However, when a cascade of extreme events, each made worse by human-caused climate change, pile on top of one another, it exposes the fragility of interconnected human systems. </p><p>"Add in the continued complications posed by COVID-19, and you're faced with even greater challenges in trying to get communities back on their feet," Bowen said.</p><p>Bowen recently authored a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0790-4" target="_blank">paper</a> with other prominent scientists attempting to tackle this complicated issue. He says because of socioeconomic factors, population spreading into more high-risk regions, and an acceleration of climate change, more intense events "will only exacerbate the impacts of these compound scenarios in the future." </p><p>Experts warn that what we are witnessing in the present moment is a window into everyday life in the not-too-distant future if humans do not reverse course and curb emissions. This is how climate change becomes a truly destabilizing force. That's why Bowen and colleagues argue that much more urgency is needed to identify these unexpected combinations and the risks they pose to society.</p>
- Alaska's Marine Ecosystem Is Changing 'Decades Too Early' Due to ... ›
- Climate Crisis Made Australia's Historic Wildfires at Least 30% More ... ›
- U.S. Voters Increasingly Concerned About Climate Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- California Wildfires Scorch Land the Size of Delaware During Record Heat - EcoWatch ›
- Tropical Storm Beta Makes Landfall in Texas, Drenching Storm-Weary Gulf Coast - EcoWatch ›