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Rapid Bombification — Super Typhoon Nepartak Barrels Toward Taiwan, Takes Aim at Already Flooded China

This year’s Asian monsoon has been a real beast for China. Inflated by the aftermath of a strong El Nino combining with record global temperatures, the system has sent powerful thunderstorms roaring over eastern sections of the Yangtze River Valley for the better part of two weeks.

These storms have spurred record tornadoes, rocked the Chinese landscape with lightning strikes, and dumped more than 16 inches of rain over a region near Wuhan and just west of Shanghai. The powerful downpours and related winds have now resulted in more than 54,000 building collapses and an estimated 7.7 billion dollars in damages. 32 million people have already been impacted. 1.4 million people have been displaced. And 231 people are now dead or missing (see China Flooding).

China 2 week Rain July 6

(Very intense rainfall over the past two weeks over the Yangtze River Valley region of China has resulted in severe flooding that has destroyed 54,000 buildings and displaced 1.4 million people. Image source: China’s Meteorological Agency.)

And all this before the predicted arrival of a Super Typhoon which is expected to dump as much as 24 inches of additional rain near the hardest hit regions between Shanghai and Wuhan this weekend after it roars over Taiwan on Thursday.

175 mph Super Typhoon Nepartak in the Pipe

As China was reeling from the impacts of heavy rainfall, sea surface temperatures over the Northwestern Pacific were screaming hot. Surface waters over a region south and east of Taiwan on July 4 and 5 approached 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) or 1-2 C above average. In addition, these hot waters extended to great depth beneath southeastern Pacific surface boundaries. As a result, the amount of ocean heat content available to fuel an intensifying Typhoon was at about the top range one would ever tend to see (near 150 KJ per square centimeter, according to Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground).

Running through these deep, hot waters on July 4 was a 70 mph max wind intensity tropical storm Nepartak. But as wind shear lessened and Nepartak drew in a deep draught of that high energy Pacific Ocean heat and moisture, the storm exploded. In just one 24 hour period, the system added fully 80 mph of maximum wind speed intensity to leap from a mere tropical storm to a very strong category 4 Typhoon by Tuesday night.

NOAA Typhoon Floater

(Nepartak barrels toward Taiwan and China on Wednesday in this NOAA enhanced satellite image.)

By Wednesday, the storm had achieved category 5 Super Typhoon intensity with top sustained winds estimated at 175 mph and a lowest central pressure of 900 mb (Japanese Meteorological Agency and Joint Typhoon Warning Center).

The Typhoon is now expected to make landfall in Taiwan on Thursday as a Category 4 storm. Heavy storm surges, very powerful winds, and 5-15 inches of predicted rainfall over most of Taiwan with up to 43 inches in the higher elevations is expected to generate flooding, landslides, structural damage, and to disrupt crops.

The storm is then predicted to leap the Taiwan Strait and track north and west over mainland China. As the storm weakens, it is expected to be drawn northward into a trough that will ultimately funnel its moisture over the already flooded region between Shanghai and Wuhan. In this zone, between 4 and 24 inches of additional rainfall is possible as the storm winds down and unburdens its massive water load.

Nepartak Rainfall Swath

(NCEP’s predicted rainfall swath for Nepartak results in additional extreme rainfall expected for already flooded regions near the Yangtze River. Image source: NCEP and Weather Underground.)

In total, weather associated with Nepartak is expected to produce a 5 day long extreme wind, storm surge and rainfall event for Taiwan and China. Heaviest impacts will likely occur in Central Taiwan near the predicted point of landfall and in the region west of Shanghai where Nepartak’s predicted rains could result in even more severe flooding for the already hard hit Yangtze River region.

Conditions in Context — Ocean Heat Intensifying, Expanding in All Dimensions

A weak La Nina is starting to form in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. And, already, deep, hot water formation has re-intensified in the Western Pacific. Ocean surfaces and temperatures at depth there are now very hot (1-2 C above normal at the surface, with such unusually warm waters extending well below the water-air boundary). Such hot, deep waters promote the formation of very intense tropical cyclones. During 2013, similar sea surface and deep water ocean heat states aided in the formation of the monster 190 mph Super Typhoon Haiyan which then devastated the Philippines.

These very hot water conditions occur in the context of a record warm world. And, in fact, scientific observation has found that not only are peak surface temperatures continuing to rise for broad ocean regions as heat expands into the depths, but that the size of biggest body of hot water on Earth in the Indian and Pacific Ocean is also getting bigger. This new world of hotter ocean surfaces, more extensive hot waters, and deeper extending warm waters all provide more storm intensifying fuel for powerful typhoons and hurricanes.

Indo-Pacific Warm Pool is getting bigger

(The hottest pool of water on Earth lies in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. And, according to new scientific research, that hot pool is expanding in size due to human-forced climate change. Image source: Human-Caused Indo-Pacific Warm Pool Expansion.)

In addition, extreme rains over China have been fueled by a record atmospheric moisture loading. As global temperatures increase, the rate of evaporation also increases. This results in more water held aloft in the Earth atmosphere. Overall, atmospheric water vapor content increases by about 7 percent for each 1 degree Celsius of warming. And the result is an increased likelihood for extreme droughts in some regions (due to added heat and related increasing evaporation rates) and extreme rainfall in others (due to the extra atmospheric moisture producing more intense storms with heavier downpours).

So while the La Nina to El Nino cycle is helping to drive the location of extreme rainfall over China and the location of tropical cyclone formation in the Pacific, human-forced warming is providing more atmospheric fuel to increase the top potential strength of these events.

Links/Attribution/Statements

Category 5 Nepartak Headed For Taiwan

China Floods Leave More than 120 Dead, Scores Missing

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center

Japanese Meteorological Agency

China Flooding: Wuhan on Alert For Further Rain

NOAA ENSO Forecast

China’s Meteorological Agency

The National Hurricane Center

NCEP

Human-Caused Indo-Pacific Warm Pool Expansion

The Biggest Body of Hot Water on Earth is Getting Bigger

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories

Scientific hat tip to Dr Jeff Masters

Hat tip to Greg

Hat tip to DT Lange

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

Hat tip to 65Karin

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Wet Bulb at 33 C — Human Hothouse Kills Nearly 800 in Pakistan

Human-forced warming of the global climate system is pushing sea surface temperatures in some areas to a maximum of 33 C. Extreme ocean warming that is increasing the amount of latent heat the atmosphere can deliver to human bodies during heatwaves. And near a 33 C sea surface hot zone, the past few days have witnessed extreme heat and related tragic mass casualties in Sindh, Pakistan.

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For Pakistan, the heat and humidity has been deadly. Temperatures over Southeastern Pakistan hit 100 to 113 Fahrenheit (40 to 45 degrees Celsius) during recent days. Night time lows dipped only into the 80s and 90s (30s Celsius). Relative humidity throughout this period has remained above a brutal 50% even during the hottest hours of the day.

Wet bulb temperatures (the wet-bulb temperature is the temperature air has if it is cooled to saturation — 100% relative humidity — by evaporation) climbed into a dangerous range of 30 to 33 degrees Celsius. This greatly reduced the ability of evaporation at skin level to cool the bodies of human beings exposed to such oppressive temperatures. As a result, people working outdoors, the elderly, or those without access to climate-controlled environments fell under severe risk of heat related injuries.

The Hospital Morgue is Overflowing

According to reports from Al Jazzera, thousands of heat injuries and hundreds of deaths have occurred across the region since Saturday. Karachi’s largest hospital — Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) — has been flooded with over 5,000 patients suffering from heat injuries since the weekend. At some points, the hospital was receiving one heat injury patient per minute — a pace that nearly overwhelmed the facility. By earlier today, more than 380 of those patients had died.

Dr Seemin Jamali, a senior official at JPMC noted to Al Jazeera:

“The mortuary is overflowing, they are piling bodies one on top of the other. We are doing everything that is humanly possible here. Until [Tuesday] night, it was unbelievable. We were getting patients coming into the emergency ward every minute.”

Across Sindh, Pakistan the story was much the same with the total official heat death toll now standing at 775 and climbing as calls were raised for more government support for people impacted by the worst heat wave to hit Pakistan in at least 15 years.

Killing Heat and Unprecedented Rains

This extreme and deadly heat is a feature of a boundary zone between a hot, high-pressure air mass over the Persian Gulf region abutting against a very moist and El Nino-intensified monsoonal system over India. The result is a combination of high heat and high humidity — factors that, together, are very hard on the human body (wet bulb temperatures above 30 C are considered dangerous, while a blanket measure of 35 C [never reached yet on Earth] is considered rapidly deadly even in the shade).

During late May and early June, similar conditions resulted in hundreds of heat related deaths in India. When the heat finally abated, the subsequent influx of monsoonal moisture set off torrential downpours. In some places, rates of rainfall exceeded typical June monsoonal accumulations by nearly 50 percent with Mumbai already having received 32 inches of rainfall (normal June rainfall is 23 inches). With Mumbai showing daily rainfall accumulations of 1-3 inches, it is possible that June totals could be double that of a typical year.

A Ramping Oceanic Heat/Moisture Pump — Feature of a Record Warm World

The high heat, high humidity and related extreme rainfall events are all features of a warming world. At issue, primarily, is the impact of human forced global warming on the ocean system and how this heating then impacts the atmosphere — making it harder for humans to remain alive outdoors during the most extreme heating events even as it pushes a tendency for more and more extreme droughts and deluges.

This warming related heat and moisture flux is most visible out in the Pacific, where record global atmospheric and ocean heat is pushing maximum sea surface temperatures into the lower 30s (typically between 30 and 31 degrees Celsius). These high sea surface temperatures in a record warm world are now dumping an extreme amount of moisture into the atmosphere through an El Nino amplified evaporation rate. A subsequent amplification of the equatorial storm track due to extreme moisture loading has already seen extraordinary record rainfall events in places as widespread as India, China and the Central U.S.

image

(Sea surface temperatures climb to near 33 C in the Ocean region near Pakistan — supporting wet bulb temperatures [high heat and high humidity] that generate a heightened risk of heat injury and death. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Maximum global sea surface temperature is a good proxy measure for how much moisture the atmosphere can hold, a measure that also likely determines the maximum wet bulb temperature (implied latent heat) at any given point on the globe. And particularly, near Pakistan, we find ocean surface temperature readings in the range of 30 to 33 C running through the coastal zone of the Indian Ocean and on into the Persian Gulf. Readings that increased the amount of moisture the atmosphere could hold at high temperature, increased relative humidity readings as temperatures entered the 100s Fahrenheit (40s C), and forced wet bulb temperatures into deadly ranges which in turn reduced the ability of the human body to cool by evaporation at skin level.

This is how human-forced global warming kills with direct heat — by basically increasing latent heat to the point that evaporation can no longer cool the human body to a natural maintenance temperature of 98.6 (F) or 37 (C). And once wet bulb temperatures start hitting 35 C, then the heat casualty potential really starts to get bad — essentially rendering heat wave regions temporarily uninhabitable for human life outdoors. With maximum sea surface temperatures now running near 33 C, we’re probably just within about 2 C of hitting that deadly boundary.

The Pakistan and Indian heat deaths this year, though extraordinarily tragic and probably preventable without current level of human forced warming of the atmosphere, serve as a warning. Keep warming the globe through fossil fuel emissions and there are many far, far worse heatwaves to come.

Links:

Pakistan Heatwave Death Toll Edges Toward 800

Pakistan Heatwave Death Tool Rises to 750

Heavy Rain Soaks India as Monsoon Advances

Flash Floods Pelt China

Earth Nullschool

An Adaptability Limit To Climate Change Due to Heat Stress

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Nearly 9,000 More Homes Lost to Flooding as China’s 41-Day Deluge Continues

China Rains May 23China Rains June 23

(Side-by-side LANCE- MODIS satellite shots of China and Southeast Asia on May 23 (left frame) and June 23 (right frame) of 2014. Notice the massive swath of cloud and stormy weather covering much of the region? It’s been like this for 41 days, now.)

* * * * *

It rained for 40 days and 40 nights? In the case of China, it’s 41 days and 41 nights and counting. A litany of previously abnormal storm events that, for too many parts of the world, have now become all too common.

Tempest after tempest wracks the atmosphere over China as moisture flooding off a super-heated Pacific Ocean keeps becoming entrained in a south-to-north flow that collides with an intense and unstable upper level storm track running a thousands-mile gauntlet between sprawling heat domes. To the southwest, one of these high pressure domes continues to establish over India and Bangladesh, squeezing monsoonal moisture into its periphery over southern China. These three storm generating and moisture injection patterns have combined and persisted since May 12th. With the result being episode-after-episode of catastrophic rainfall for China.

In the middle of May, a massive rain event emerging from this destructive weather pattern capsized 25,000 homes and forced more than half a million to flee. Over the past four days, a re-intensification of these brutish storms over six provinces once again resulted in nearly half a million evacuated and, this time, destroyed nearly 9,000 homes while damaging more than 60,000 others.

Already saturated grounds gave way to the recent bout of heavy rains triggering numerous landslides. In Jiangxi, inundation set off a school building collapse. In total, these events resulted in the loss of more than 26 souls. Heavy rains and hail also caused widespread damage to crops. In Hunan province alone, more than 127,000 hectares were destroyed.

Traffic Signs Submerged along a River in Lanxi

(River flooding in Lanxi, China submerges street lights and traffic signs. View more images of China flooding here.)

The worse may be yet to come as the rainy pattern continues to persist over much of China.

Storms Build With Global Warming, El Nino

Though historically vulnerable to flooding, China’s multi-river region has been treated to more and more severe events in recent years. Warm ocean waters associated with El Nino and human-caused climate change have triggered weather alterations spurring ever more intense periods of heavy rainfall during summer over much of Eastern China. The worst of these episodes occurred in conjunction with the monster 1998 El Nino and then record atmospheric heating resulting in both massive structural damage and a terrible human toll. In total, more than 5,000 souls were lost in an extreme flooding episode along the Yangtze River during that major atmospheric disturbance.

For 2014, a potentially strong El Nino developing in the Pacific is combining with record high global temperatures to spike severe weather risks yet again. In the case of China, the potential is for summer-long rains punctuated by a continuation of extreme episodes as the current flood pattern remains locked in place and gorges on an amped-up heat and moisture flow off the blazing Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Links:

LANCE- MODIS

Storms Leave 26 People Dead in Landslides Across China

Rainstorms, Floods Affect Millions in China

Two Week Long Flood Destroys 25,000 Homes in China

Massive, Two Week Long China Flood Sends Half a Million Fleeing, Destroys More Than 25,000 Homes

Black, ominous clouds have been dumping heavy rainfall over southeast China ever since May 12.

Warm winds, laden with the moisture spilling off a super-heated Pacific Ocean, collided with an intense storm track that often combined upper level moisture flows spilling off the heat dome near the Caspian, a high intensity heat and evaporation event now ongoing over India, and cold, unstable air streaming down from the Kara Sea in the Arctic. Since mid-May this relentlessly persistent pattern has been in effect. And the inundation has been ongoing and extraordinarily intense with day-after-day deluges pounding a sprawling region from south-central China and on to the coast.

(Chinese news report from yesterday showing widespread flooding.)

Each new dawn brings with it fresh losses with numerous major roads closed, bridges washed out, and adding to what is now an almost endless tally of evacuation orders. Daily rainfall totals in the range of 2-6 inches or more have saturated grounds, burst riverbanks, and turned streets into torrents. By today, more than 1 million people had been impacted with nearly a half million evacuated or rescued from flooded buildings. Since the, still ongoing, floods began in mid-May, more than 25,000 homes and 40 souls have been lost to the epic storms.

southeast china May 12, 2014southeast china May 18southeast China May 23Southeast China May 27

(Relentless heavy rainfall over Southeast China visible in the above four satellite images on [left to right, top to bottom] May 12, May 18, May 23rd and May 27th. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)

The Chinese have invested heavily in flood defenses since the 1998 deluge that resulted in 4,000 dead, over 15 million homeless, and 26 billion dollars in damages. During that year, a strong El Nino set off severe storms that turned large Chinese rivers into raging inland seas. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze was built, in part, to prevent this kind of terrible flooding.

But fears of a possible repeat of the 1998 event are on the rise despite heightened Chinese defenses. A strong El Nino may again be gathering in the Pacific and with global temperatures now warmer than even those seen during the late 1990s, atmospheric moisture loading is probably at its highest in at least the last 10,000 years.

Extreme Floods Linked to El Nino and Climate Change

This extreme atmospheric heating and global trend toward El Nino could well result in continuing and possibly worsening local impacts for Southeast China. It is the second region this spring to suffer epic flooding after the worst flood event in 1,000 years resulted in the destruction of over 100,000 homes in the Balkans.

High atmospheric heat content increases both the frequency of severe rain and drought events due to an amplification of the hydrological cycle through evaporation. Overall, it is estimated that the current .8 C of warming over 1880s temperature averages has caused a 6% amplification of the hydrological cycle worldwide. That’s 6% heavier rainfall and 6% more intense droughts when averaged over the entire globe. But as we well know, weather isn’t an evenly distributed phenomena. Some regions are more likely to receive a bulk of that increased rainfall even as others are more prone to see a majority of the increased drying. Add to this consequence a meandering Jet Stream (set off by loss of Northern Hemisphere sea ice) with the tendency to lock in very persistent weather patterns and you end up with a greatly enhanced likelihood for extreme weather due to the wide-ranging effects of atmospheric warming.

Weather Forecast Calls for More Severe Storms

For southeast China, weather patterns will remain locked in for a continuation of potential extreme rainfall over the next week. The large heat domes over the Caspian and India will continue to spill out moisture over Southeast China even as the extraordinarily warm Pacific provides its own moisture flow. Notably, the weather forecast for this Wednesday calls for another large outbreak of thunderstorms with the potential to drop 2-4+ inches of rainfall over already saturated and inundated grounds. Thursday through Sunday is expected to bring yet more waves of severe thunderstorms to the region.

Given this combined extreme weather and climate state it is certainly possible that the current flood tally will continue to lengthen for Southeast China.

Links:

LANCE-MODIS

Half a Million Evacuated as China Braces for More Flooding

Dozens Die in China Floods

More Rain for Flood Ravaged South China

Recovering From Balkan Flood Disaster Will Cost Billions

Top Climate Scientists Explain How Global Warming Wrecks the Jet Stream and Amps up the Hydrological Cycle to Cause Dangerous Weather

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

Mangled Jet Stream Brings Worst Storms in Five Decades to Sichuan China; Approach of Super Typhoon Soulik to Result in Hybrid Rain Superstorm?

A persistent south-north flow of the Jet Stream has dredged moisture up from the Indian Ocean, India and Bangladesh and deposited it in a deluge that has persisted over Sichuan, China for at least the past five days. Rainfall in many areas were the worst seen since weather records began in 1954. In one example, the city of Dujiangyan experienced 37 inches of rainfall over the course of 40 hours.

The floods forced nearly 100,000 people to evacuate and have impacted at least 2 million people across the region. Over 200 people are feared dead or missing. With some towns buried under as much as 20 feet of water, thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed or damaged with transportation brought to a stand-still in many of the effected regions. In hard-hit Dujiangyan, a local resort was buried when a hillside collapsed, burying the area to tree-top level in mud and debris and spurring the evacuation of 352 tourists. Raging floodwaters also caused a nearby bridge collapse that sent at least six vehicles into raging flood waters.

In the video below, provided by KIDgrownup, we can see the raging floodwaters washing away buildings and heavy equipment as people flee the disaster site:

Changed Jet Stream Causes Dangerous, Persistent Weather Pattern as Super Typhoon Approaches

A dwindling, but still significant, number of media sources continue to claim that we cannot attribute single events such as the most recent Sichuan Floods to climate change. Unfortunately, this claim is simply untrue. Climate is a measure of weather over a given area during a long period of time. As climate changes so does the weather. In Europe, for example, major flood events are now twice as likely as they were forty years ago. This 100% increase in floods can be directly attributed to changes in Europe’s climate and, as such, fully 50% of each new major flood is, therefore attributable to climate change. And the fact that the most extreme floods are getting more extreme can also be attributed to climate change. In this case, saying a single record flood event, like the current Sichuan flood, cannot be attributed to climate change is at least 50% untrue. Would a flood like this have occurred, eventually, if climate hadn’t changed? Probably. But it likely would have happened 50, 100, 200 years or more later. Would it have happened this year, the way it did, without climate change? Absolutely not.

At the micro level, we can also look at weather patterns and clearly point out how they are not normal and how they’ve changed as a result of human-caused climate impacts. In the example of this week’s Sichuan Floods, the Jet Stream created conditions where heavy rains, so far, have stalled over Sichuan to inundate the region.

Sichuan Floods July 8

(Sichuan Floods, July 8. Image source: Lance-Modis)

In the above image we can see a thick blot of clouds hovering over Sichuan in Central China. This dense band of clouds is the result of a cut off upper air flow of the Jet Stream forming a strong, persistent upper level disturbance. To the south, we can see a broad band of clouds and moisture being drawn into the system from the Indian ocean and over India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam. To the east, a tropical system in the Korean Sea also contributes moisture to feed this large storm.

What is most unusual about this particular weather pattern is that it doesn’t move. And we can see this when we switch to today’s Lance-Modis shot. The below image is 4 days later than the July 8 shot. But the storm over Central China has hardly budged.

Sichuan Floods July 11

(Sichuan Floods July 11. Image source: Lance-Modis)

In this shot, the cut off upper level flow in the Jet Stream remains, the dense cloud pack over Central China remains, the strong upper level low remains, and the moisture flow from the Indian Ocean and related regions remain. Ominously, the only marked difference in this shot is the looming approach of super typhoon Soulik from the China Sea. This major typhoon packs winds in excess of 140 miles per hour and could cause severe damage to Taiwan. However, it’s the ability of this system to deliver moisture into an already moisture rich upper level air flow that may result in even worse conditions for Eastern and Central China over the next few days as the storm is projected to make landfall in Eastern China, then track as far as 200 miles west of Shanghai. At this point, some weather models, including the ECMWF ensemble, show Soulik getting absorbed by the cut-off upper level low now parked over China. Were this to happen, the resulting rain event could be far more substantial than even the record floods seen over the past few days.

The Climate Change Link To Extreme Weather

So how did climate change create the conditions in which this dangerous situation emerged?

  1. The upper level Jet Stream was caused to meander due to a climate change induced loss of sea ice and summer snow cover.
  2. These changes resulted in a slower progression of weather patterns and more cut-off upper level disturbances.
  3. The added atmospheric heat content added both moisture and instability, adding fuel for storms like this one.
  4. Increased ocean temperatures made moisture and heat delivery from ocean systems and tropical cyclones more likely.

Without these conditions, the Sichuan floods were unlikely to have happened with such force, violence and to have been so persistent and long-lasting. And now, a bad situation is made worse via the ocean delivery of a super typhoon, just one of many more frequent storms to plague this region over the last 40 years. An increased frequency a recent scientific study also attributes to climate change.

Hybrid rain superstorm to form over China? Hopefully, not. But, at this point, things aren’t looking too good.

Links:

Lance-Modis

Rainstorms Flood Sichuan China

China Floods Death Toll Rises

Taiwan Evacuates 2,000 Tourists as Super Typhoon Soulik Looms

ECMWF

 

 

 

 

 

 

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