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Climate Change Driven Record Atmospheric Moisture Produces Major Flooding in Central U.S.

Ten inches. That’s how much rain has fallen over parts of the Central U.S. over the past week. Five-to-ten inches more. That’s how much additional rain could again fall across the same region during the next seven days according to NOAA’s forecast (see below image).

(The Central U.S. is already experiencing severe flooding. But record atmospheric moisture levels driven by extreme ocean warming is setting up conditions for even more intense weather. Image source: NOAA.)

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Warnings of potentially life-threatening flooding were issued today from Michigan to the Ohio Valley and on through a large swath stretching from Texas into Arkansas as severe rainfall again inundated the Central U.S.

A massive double-barrel high pressure system sitting off the U.S. East Coast generated strong south-to-north winds running over sea surfaces in the Gulf of Mexico ranging from 1 to 5 C warmer than average. These winds reaped the waters of a much larger than normal load of water vapor and then pumped it over the Central U.S. The result was record atmospheric moisture levels running over the region producing significant and abnormally intense rain storms. Now, many areas are under flood warnings with moderate-to-major flooding expected.

(Much warmer than normal sea surfaces over the Gulf of Mexico resulted in increased atmospheric moisture loading. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

1-5 C warmer than normal ocean surfaces, as we see in the Gulf of Mexico today, is an extraordinary anomaly. In the past, 2 C warmer than normal readings would have been considered significant. But with human-caused climate change, sea surface temperature anomalies have tended to become more and more extreme.

Though warmer than normal Gulf of Mexico waters are contributing to the presently severe precipitation now falling over the Central U.S., they are not the only waters seeing such high temperatures. In fact, the global ocean is now much warmer than it was in the past and, from region-to-region, produces abnormally high surface temperatures with increasing regularity. These warmer waters have pumped more moisture into the Earth’s atmosphere which has led to an increase in the number of extreme rainfall events both in the U.S. and across the globe. A signal of human forced climate change.

(Large east coast high pressure systems, seen in right of frame as two clockwise swirls, hit a record intensity this week beneath an unusually intense ridge in the Jet Stream. The highs also served to pump that intense Gulf moisture into the Central U.S. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The large high pressure system driving such a significant moisture flow over the Central U.S. today is also climate change related. Earlier this week, the high hit a record intensity — spurring a never-before-seen spate of record warm temperatures across the U.S. northeast. The high, in its turn was fueled by a warming-driven polar vortex collapse in the Arctic which generated the intense ridge pattern that allowed it to bloom and sprawl.

What we are seeing, therefore, is a kind of climate change related synergy between severe polar warming and more intense ridge and trough patterns in the middle latitudes. Add in the factor of warmer sea surfaces and this changed atmospheric circulation is enabled to more efficiently tap related higher atmospheric moisture levels to fuel the more intense storms we’re seeing today.

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33 Comments

  1. kassy

     /  February 23, 2018

    “Beautiful clean coal” coming atcha!

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  2. Andy_in_SD

     /  February 24, 2018

    Check out the ice concentration at the northern end of Greenland getting basted away. The heat invasion is really doing a number in that area. Also, you can get a good look at the Bering Strait side as well. It looks like quite a setup for the melt season now.

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    • bill h

       /  February 24, 2018

      Wow, Andy, that’s remarkable. “Neven”, on his “Arctic Sea Ice Blog” used to describe the ice off the North coast of Greenland ice the “Fort Knox of Arctic Sea Ice”, since the ice there was so much thicker than anywhere else. It looks as if someone’s found the key/cracked the safe code.

      Arctic Sea Ice would seem to be about to lose its anchor.

      Like

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    • Greg

       /  February 25, 2018

      For a timelapse:

      Like

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  3. Loni

     /  February 24, 2018

    Robert, it appears that the west coast of the U.S. receives most of it’s weather influence from the Pacific, where the mid west and east coast seem to be influenced more from the Arctic. If that’s so, is that pretty much a given, or is that up for grabs as heat takes over?

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    • The Arctic interaction through both the Pacific and Atlantic zones has been increasing lately. Both oceans have provided pathways for warm air invasions. Note both the severe west coast drought and intense Bering sea ice losses as indicators.

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  4. Loni

     /  February 24, 2018

    Andy in SD, with that heat flowing through Bering Strait heading for the methane rich fields of the Laptev Sea we may be able to put to rest the debate about what would happen if a massive methane eruption were to take place.

    Can’t wait to find out…….really.

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    • Andy_in_SD

       /  February 25, 2018

      Yup, it’s like disaster porn I tell ya. We want to see, just to see what happens. But we don’t want to see as the knock on effect is so bad. Like driving past a bad accident on the highway.

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  5. Knowing the Cooling dimming effect of volcano’s (Pinatabu)

    Powerful eruption of Sheveluch volcano sends ash to 12 km (39 360 feet) a.s.l.
    A major eruption started at Russia’s Sheveluch volcano at 16:20 UTC on June 14, 2017. KVERT reports a plume of ash reached a height of 12 km (39 360 feet) above sea level and warned explosions up to 15 km (49 200 feet) could occur at any time. The Aviation Color Code was raised from Orange to Red.
    2 ash clouds 1 travelled ENE, the other SW

    Volcanic activity in Iceland is warming up

    M3.6 earthquake hits Öræfajökull volcano, the largest on record
    A magnitude 3.6 earthquake was registered within the caldera of Öræfajökull volcano in Iceland at 05:07 UTC on February 9, 2018 and was followed by 10 aftershocks. This volcano is on Yellow alert since November 17, 2017 when a new ice-cauldron formed within its caldera. The last eruptive episode of this volcano started in August 1727 and ended in May 1728.

    Today’s earthquake is the largest recorded in Öræfajökull since instrumentation in the area started in 1976, The Icelandic Met Office said. The earthquake occurred inside the caldera just southeast of the ice-cauldron, about 1 km (0.62 miles) in diameter, that formed in November last year. The depth seems to be confined in the first few kilometers of the crust.”

    Öræfajökull has been showing signs of unrest for over a year, IMO said, adding that two other earthquakes larger than M3 have been recorded since last fall – M3.5 on the October 3, 2017 and M3.1 on January 18, 2018.
    A major silicic eruption in 1362 CE was Iceland’s largest historical explosive eruption. It and another eruption during 1727-28 were accompanied by major jökulhlaups (glacier outburst floods) that caused property damage and fatalities.

    Earthquake swarm under Skjaldbreidur volcano, Iceland
    Posted by TW on December 10, 2017
    Earthquake swarm detected near Herðubreið, Askja volcanic area, Iceland
    Posted by TW on November 28, 2017
    Intense earthquake swarm at Tjörnes Fracture Zone, Iceland
    Posted by TW on February 16, 2018

    Note the Icelandic Geological services considers any volcanic eruptions unlikely, but just a heads up on Geothermal activity in a sensitive area

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  6. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6378/908
    Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century
    Consequently, reef sediments globally will transition from net precipitation to net dissolution when seawater Ωar reaches 2.92 ± 0.16 (expected circa 2050 CE). Notably, some reefs are already experiencing net sediment dissolution.

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  7. https://qz.com/1213702/a-new-nasa-image-confirms-that-antartica-is-losing-ice-faster-every-year/
    New cutting-edge science confirms that Antarctica is losing ice faster every year

    Why SLR is accelerating

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  8. kassy

     /  February 24, 2018

    Ice stupa of Ladakh solving water crisis

    Leh (Jammu and Kashmir) [India] Feb 24 (ANI): An innovative manmade artificial ice stupa has been created in Leh to conserve winter waste water to address the water scarcity during spring.

    The stupa has become a centre of attraction for thousands of tourist including locals.

    The natural glacier formed out of winter snowfall on higher reaches of mountain serves as main source of water supply in Ladakh region for farmers.

    As the global warming resulted in shrinking of natural glaciers the farmers in Ladakh are facing acute shortage of water for irrigation especially during the spring season.

    The winter waste water is stored in the shape of ice stupas which melts slowly during spring time thus providing an alternate source of water supply when natural glaciers don’t melt properly at a point of time in spring.

    The excess water from artificial ice stupa is stored in a tank constructed below it.

    https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/ice-stupa-of-ladakh-solving-water-crisis201802240235060001/

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  9. kassy

     /  February 24, 2018

    There’s a ‘Doorway to The Underworld’ in Siberia So Big It’s Uncovered Ancient Forests

    t’s no secret that Siberia’s permafrost is on thin ice. Conditions are varying so much that huge holes are appearing out of nowhere, and, in some places, tundra is quite literally bubbling underneath people’s feet.

    But one of the biggest craters in the region, known by the local Yakutian people as the ‘doorway to the underworld’, is growing so rapidly that it’s uncovering long-buried forests, carcasses, and up to 200,000 years of historical climate records.

    Known as the Batagaika crater, it’s what’s officially called a ‘megaslump’ or ‘thermokarst’.

    https://www.sciencealert.com/siberian-doorway-to-the-underworld-so-huge-millennia-old-forests-and-carcasses-climate-change

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    • Shawn Redmond

       /  February 24, 2018

      I believe this is also a doorway to the underworld,
      Exxon Mobil Corporation
      5959 Las Colinas Boulevard
      Irving, TX 75039-2298

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      Reply
  10. It would be interesting to know how much flooding the nuclear power plants in these areas can tolerate before failures occur, and how the flooding is impacting the buried waste fuel stored at the sites.

    Like

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  11. bill h

     /  February 24, 2018

    Wow, that’s remarkable. “Neven”, on his “Arctic Sea Ice Blog” used to describe the ice off the North coast of Greenland ice the “Fort Knox of Arctic Sea Ice”, since the ice there was so much thicker than anywhere else. It looks as if someone’s found the key/cracked the safe code.

    Arctic Sea Ice would seem to be about to lose its anchor.

    Like

    Reply
  12. Dave McGinnis

     /  February 24, 2018

    Robert, another nice analysis. That high cell seeks a cool surface and so retreats offshore in the Spring when the land warms — but this is February! When I worked in East Kentucky our worst floods were this time of year when the leaves are down and there is patchy frozen ground; they’re vulnerable right now. And Spring is arriving this week here in the islands, too, where the termites are commencing mating flights 6 weeks early.

    Like

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  13. wili

     /  February 24, 2018

    Youth-led climate march on Washington
    July 21st, 2018
    http://thisiszerohour.org/

    Like

    Reply
  14. Andy_in_SD

     /  February 25, 2018

    per Frank Speaking’s comment above (thank for that Frank).

    I suspect we will begin to see more and more geological events due to isostatic rebound as Greenland rises and the back pressure on plate tectonics in that region are reduced.

    Like

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  15. wili

     /  February 25, 2018

    The Onion seems to be channeling Dr. McPherson now:

    “Sighing, Resigned Climate Scientists Say To Just Enjoy Next 20 Years As Much As You Can”

    https://www.theonion.com/sighing-resigned-climate-scientists-say-to-just-enjoy-1823265249/

    Like

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  16. wili

     /  February 25, 2018

    Arctic Daily Mean Temps are again wandering off into uncharted territory…not your grandfather’s Arctic, or even your three years ago Arctic, anymore:

    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php

    Like

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  17. Greg

     /  February 25, 2018

    Moral authority meets the new online world. Looking forward to the awakening of this generation to the full breadth of their power to shift the conversation we’ve controlled and suffocated them with. My middle schooler asking me about if I approve of him joining walkouts. Hell yes.

    Like

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  18. And the wheels keep turning regardless of politicians and lobby groups, sometimes slowed down or spinning, but they keep a turning

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/jaguar-gears-for-electric-sports-car-with-big-spend-on-city-chargers-20180222-p4z1dx.html

    Jaguar plans to invest millions of dollars in electric vehicle charging stations ahead of the launch of its electric vehicle range in Australia.

    The vehicle manufacturer is planning to launch its fully electric sports car, the I-Pace, and two hybrid land rovers in September and October, and will invest between $3 million and $4 million building electric vehicle charging stations for the new vehicles ahead of their release.

    He said Australia needed strategies to support the growth of the electric vehicle industry to allow people to have more options in terms of transport.

    He added that there was only so much vehicle manufacturers can do.

    “It’s not the role of car companies to build petrol stations, and while it is not the role of governments to spend public money on subsidising the industry, they need to create a framework for its growth.

    “We need the right framework to supercharge the infrastructure and allow people to make a decision on the uptake of electric vehicles.”

    Like

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  19. In relation to the Idaho decision re the science standards something that is worthy of admiration in this age of suspect politicians
    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/feb/22/idaho-lawmakers-approve-school-science-standards-i/

    Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville, a rancher and first-term senator, spoke out for the first time on the standards on Thursday. “I haven’t been here that long, but this science standards conversation has been going on since I got here,” he said. “So I try to look at things in a fairly simple way, because I’m a fairly simple guy.”

    “We had a problem,” he said. “We needed some direction on science standards, right? So if I have a sick cow, I call a vet, I call a specialist. We called some specialists, science teachers. We asked them what they thought, they gave us some recommendations. … We ran it by the public, much as I would run it by my neighbors on the cow problem. … We did that, we ran it by the public, the public that actually elected us to sit here.

    “So we take those results. So we brought the results to the Legislature, the Legislature had some conversations about it, didn’t like it so much. So we sent it back through the process. We went to the specialists, we went back to the public, and now we’re back to the Legislature.

    “That process, folks, in my view is kind of the American process of success,” Crabtree said. “And if we don’t believe in that process, then we probably don’t like the product. I believe in the process.”

    Game, Set, Match

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  20. wharf rat

     /  February 25, 2018

    Cape Morris Jesup (Greenland’s northernmost observation station) is now reporting temperatures well above freezing today… +6.1°C at the latest observation.

    http://www.dmi.dk/groenland/maalinger/vejret-lige-nu/stations/vis/4301

    Like

    Reply
  21. Andy_in_SD

     /  February 25, 2018

    The world’s forests are shrinking. For years, they’ve withstood a multitude of human impact.

    But according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances, they may be reaching a crisis point.

    If deforestation goes beyond 20 percent of its original spread, the Amazon Rainforest will have reached the “point of no return”.

    https://www.sciencealert.com/deforestation-amazon-collapse-savannah-imminent

    Like

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  22. Jeremy in Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

     /  February 25, 2018

    8pm GMT 25/02/18 and nullschool showing +0.4°C in the pitch dark of an Artic winter, wow
    https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=temp/orthographic=-1.92,87.73,3000/loc=-81.051,89.485

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  23. Jeremy in Wales

     /  February 25, 2018

    Will try again

    8pm GMT 25/02/18 and nullschool showing +0.4°C in the pitch dark of an Artic winter, wow
    https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=temp/orthographic=-1.92,87.73,3000/loc=-81.051,89.485

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  1. Warmed, Wet and Blocked: Another Storm Taking Aim at the Flooded Central U.S. is Expected to Transition into a Stalled Nor’Easter | robertscribbler

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