2015 was the hottest climate year in the global record by a long shot. According to Japan’s Meteorological Agency, temperatures were a full 0.18 degrees Celsius hotter than 1998, which is now the third hottest climate year on record, and a whopping 0.13 C above just last year (the second hottest year on record).
It’s a part of a larger warming trend that began during the latter 19th Century. One that has now seen more than 1 degree Celsius of total overall global warming. And so, in a little more than one hundred and thirty years, humans through a massive burning of carbon based fuels, have forced the world to warm by about 20 percent of all the warming seen at the end of the last ice age. But at that great glacial termination it typically took about 2,000 years for the world to warm by the amount we’ve now seen over little more than a Century.
A World in Record Hot Water
That’s a lot of heat accumulation for a very short period of time. A massive heat build-up that saw its most recent high point just this past year (2015). And all that extra heat accumulating over 2014-2015 blew an extraordinary amount of water vapor into the Earth’s atmosphere. Water vapor that primarily boiled off of Ocean hot spot zones. One of these zones, the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, experienced some of its hottest temperatures ever recorded as a monster El Nino blew up through that region. But other ocean surface hot spots abounded. The Northeastern Pacific, the Atlantic Ocean off the US East Coast, regions of the upper Northern Hemisphere Latitudes including the Barents and Bering Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Southern Pacific, the Southern Atlantic off South America and Africa and many other regions in between all experienced much warmer than normal surface temperatures.
(Extremely warm sea surface temperatures around the world are dumping an extraordinary amount of moisture into the global atmosphere. As global temperatures hit peak just after El Nino, a heavy volume of this moisture is likely to come down in the form of extreme precipitation events. And with global temperatures at record levels, the resulting storms could be extroardinarily powerful. We’ve already seen some of this weather. But there’s all-too-likely more in the pipe. Image source: NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory.)
These hot waters generated unprecedented plumes of moisture. The water vapor flooded into the record hot atmosphere. And as we neared peak global temperature readings, or even worse, started to come off that peak, some of that massive volume of water hanging in the air began to precipitate out.
River Threatens to Devour 16th Century Castle in Scotland
One of the heaviest hit regions — Northern England and Scotland — has experienced the worst floods in its history this Winter. Residents of this waterlogged country now all-too-often report rivers of water running down the streets just outside their homes. And time after time during storm after storm, hundreds to thousands are forced to flee the record high and rising waters. Last week, a powerful North Atlantic low pushed river levels so high that a bridge that had lasted through more than three Centuries of floods finally succumbed to the epic torrent.
Today, the raging Dee River devoured 250 feet of bank and is now threatening to undermine Abergeldie Castle — a structure that has stood against storms for the past 450 years. But one that is now no match for the hydrological events arising in a record hot world.
According to some, climate change was only supposed to threaten the poor. But the particular natural disaster that we’ve brewed up apparently didn’t get the message. Abergeldie is the residence of an Scottish Baron and friend to the Queen — John Gordon (76) together with his wife. Sadly, these well established people have also recently joined the ranks of refugees to a disaster that does not discriminate. One that can devour homes and residences of any variety — those of any people of any nation and of any walk of life. Baron Gordon may not know it yet, but he stands in solidarity with the people of island nations around the world, with Bangladeshis, and with the hundreds of thousands of people all displaced by extreme weather events just this year. All of whom are deserving of our best efforts to help them and to, most of all, prevent ever worsening extreme weather events of the kinds we are now experiencing on a global basis.
John’s neighbor described a very distraught family in this recent Guardian posting:
“The castle is in imminent danger and John is at his wits’ end. It’s not only a home. It’s the heritage, the history. Nothing can be done while the river is in spate like it is. It’s just thundering down. It swept away and smashed the mature trees at the back of the house like matchsticks. It also took 250ft of the bank away and all the ground at the back. The river is right at the back door.”
160,000 Displaced by Floods in South America
For many in South America last week, the situation was just as dire. Regions suffering from a two year long drought suddenly found themselves facing off against some of the worst rainfall events in at least the last 50 years. Powerful storms driven by the massive heat and moisture bleed off the Equatorial Pacific ripped through the region — sparking high winds, ripping down power lines and inundating the area with flooding rains.
By December 27th, when the rains had mostly abated, tens of thousands of people were displaced by rising flood waters. In Paraguay alone more than 100,000 people were forced to flee the floods. And throughout the rest of South America including sections of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina another 60,000 were made refugees by the raging waters.
(Floods, floods everywhere. NASA tracks the global extreme weather events of 2015 in the stunning composite video above. Video source: NASA.)
The floods swamped thousands of homes — ripping apart roads and other critical infrastructure as the region reeled to respond to the disaster. By Monday, December 28 the only form of transportation through much of the vast impacted area was by boat.
Missouri, Illinois Inundated
At about the same time historic floods were ripping through England and Paraguay last week, a massive storm system was in the process of dumping more than a foot of rain over some sections of the Central US. The heavy rains swamped Missouri spurring the government there to declare a state of emergency even as heavy impacts spread over a multi-state region of the Central US. The storm — dubbed The Four Season Storm — by Dr Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground, immediately put over 1.5 million people in the affected region under flood warnings as town after town was swamped by the torrential downpours associated with the powerful system’s eastern edge.
(The Mississippi leaps its banks amidst freak, unseasonable storms during December of 2015 and January of 2016. This image taken at 39,000 feet by pilot Chris Manno in a 737 over Missouri on January 3rd.)
By today, the heavy rains dumped by the storm were well on their way through the Mississippi River basin and its tributaries. As a result more than 7 million people across the Central US are now impacted. In Illinois, levee breeches sent waters flowing out over lands up to six miles away from the Mississippi — swamping roads, homes and vehicles. Meanwhile, back in flood-soaked Missouri Governor Jay Nixon was inspecting the aftermath.
After touring St. Louis, he seemed aghast:
“I’m from this part of the state and, quite frankly, it’s almost hard to believe. It’s almost as if you’re living on some other planet.”
Heavy Weather Takes Aim at US West Coast
As multiple regions of the world reel under freak and historic flooding, the storm track in the North Pacific is now angling in at the US West Coast. A strong storm system is now battering California with heavy winds and rains. The system, which raged in out of the Pacific upon the backs of 27 foot waves, is now venting its fury over California. It’s the first of a series of storms that are, in total, predicted to dump as much as 7 inches of rain over the region by the end of this week.
(NOAA’s 7 day liquid precipitation equivalent forecast shows 4 to 7 inches of rain or equivalent snow predicted to fall over Coastal California, the Sierra Nevada range and Central Arizona. For southwestern desert regions, especially, the predicted weather is expected to be unusually heavy. Image source: NOAA Weather Prediction Center.)
With three storms expected to impact the region over the next four days, it appears the flood risk is now taking aim at California. The extreme moisture of a record warm atmosphere again appears to be set to unload. Lets hope that our fellows on the US West Coast are prepared.
Hat Tip to Colorado Bob
Hat Tip to DT Lange