This Is Still Normal?

Cyclone Yasi

Only a fortnight after the floods that hit Queensland, Cyclone Yasi is bearing down on the northern end of Queensland.

Authorities have recorded wind speeds of 295km/h and warned that storm surges of up to 7 metres could hit Cardwell, between Townsville and Cairns, as the cyclone’s expected arrival late tonight combines with a high tide.

The life-threatening system is forecast to cross the coast near Innisfail, with furious winds, torrential rain and floods adding to Queensland’s massive damage bill from natural disasters this summer.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced that Cyclone Yasi is even bigger than Cyclone Larry that hit Innisfail 5 years ago, and that it is in fact a storm with a scale of which has been unseen in generations. I take that to read it’s a once in a hundred hear event – just like the floods that hit Brisbane.

In the aftermath of Brisbane, it got pointed out by some people that Brisbane was always prone to flooding and that the councils that allowed construction of houses in such places were to blame. A lot of it came from people who had the usual climate-denial axe to grind.

It was conveniently missed that the Wivenhoe Dam was built after the 1974 floods in order to control flooding, and that it had been overwhelmed with the scale of water that was way beyond what the designers had foreseen. The precipitation that led to the recent floods was reported as double the precipitation in 1974.

Indeed, where did all this water come from?

Uhh, in case you’re wondering, that’s a rhetorical question. It seems incredibly ornery to ignore the volume of water that has been introduced into the system with melting polar caps and glaciers. But I guess that’s what you get from climate change deniers.

From Texas To Maine

So while the north end of Queensland is getting inundated in historic proportions yet again, we find out that North America has been hit by a historic snow storm.

The monstrous storm billed as the worst in decades delivered knock-out after knock-out as it made its way from Texas to Maine, bringing Chicago and the rest of the Midwest to a halt and prompting a region-wide snow day.

“I’m usually skeptical about predictions of a big storm,” 50-year-old law firm librarian Janet Smith said Tuesday afternoon while waiting at a downtown Chicago train station. “But I’m kind of excited. I wasn’t around for the storm of `67, or the storm of `79, or the storm of `99. I’ve missed all the greats. I’m excited about experiencing it.”

For the first time in history, the state of Missouri shut down Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City due to a winter storm. The newspaper in Tulsa, Okla., canceled its print edition for the first time in more than a century. And in Chicago, public schools called a snow day for the first time in 12 years.

Now, here’s the thing. I experienced ’79 and it was billed as the worst snow in 30years in the New York area at the time. But that was superseded by a snow fall in the mid 1990s that was billed as worst in 60 years. It’s a little odd that we’re seeing once in a life-time sort of events in regular succession.

Yet, this is exactly what is predicted by climate change models where global warming has led to more water in the system, giving rise to wilder and wilder storm events. These things aren’t coincidences and chance happenings.For it to be chance you’d expect more of a regression to the mean. Instead we’re seeing a shift towards a ‘new normal’ where we’re hit with more extreme storms more frequently and marvel at the historic ferocity. Hurricane Katrina anybody?

Yes, it could all be chance an coincidence and luck and within the bell curve of events that could realistically happen. However, it’s a lot more scientific to explain it as largely because there’s more water in the climate system, causing frequent extreme weather events. Occam’s razor says it’s the latter. This whole extreme storm thing is about global warming.

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Filed under General, Nature, Science, Uncategorized

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