Tropical Storm Beta Makes Landfall in Texas, Drenching Storm-Weary Gulf Coast
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.
Beta is a small but slow-moving storm. Its tropical-storm winds extend 125 miles from the eye of the storm. However, the danger from Beta is not its winds, but the tremendous amount of rain it is expected to drop on towns and cities along the Interstate 10 corridor in Texas and Louisiana, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The National Hurricane Center issued an update late last night that the center of Beta made landfall in Texas near the Southern End of the Matagorda peninsula around 10 p.m. CDT.
The storm's slow movement will stall Beta over Texas and drench the region with five to 10 inches of rain, said Rich Otto, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, MD, as The New York Times reported. The heavy rains and wind will also create dangerous storm surges.
"Twenty-four hours from now it will be in roughly the same location," Otto said Monday, according to The New York Times.
That stalled movement has put roughly 11 million people under flash flood warnings that span the Texas and Louisiana coast, according to CNN. The sustained rain is also expected to cause river flooding and urban flooding.
Early Tuesday morning, Beta was moving no faster than people typically walk, at just 3 miles per hour. It is predicted to stall over inland Texas Tuesday and then move toward the east and northeast later in the day when it will begin to weaken, according to the AP. It is expected to stay in southeastern Texas through Wednesday and then move over Louisiana and Mississippi through Friday.
Dangerous flash floods may continue through Wednesday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Amaryllis Cotto in Galveston, Texas, who spoke to the AP. Cotto added that 6-12 inches of rain has already fallen in the area and some areas have seen 18 inches of rain.
On Monday night, Beta's storm surge washed away a pier in Galveston, Texas. The incident was captured on video and posted to Twitter.
The governors of Texas and Louisiana both urged residents to be vigilant during the storm. Texas Governor Greg Abbot issued a disaster declaration for 29 counties Monday, while Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency and begged residents still recovering from Hurricane Laura to be especially careful, according to The Weather Channel.
Nic Hunter, the mayor of Lake Charles, Louisiana, worried that Beta's intense rains may be "an emotional and mental toll for a lot of our citizens," as the city tries to recover after Hurricane Laura damaged 95 percent of the city's nearly 30,000 buildings, according to the AP.
While Beta slowly drenches Texas, Hurricane Teddy has strengthened in the Atlantic and is churning towards Nova Scotia in Canada. It is expected to make landfall Wednesday.
"Teddy should turn to the north-northeast and move over eastern Nova Scotia on Wednesday then over the Gulf of St. Lawrence late Wednesday into Thursday," National Hurricane Center forecasters said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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