Extreme Weather Watch: March 2015

by on April 8, 2015 · 0 comments

in Environment, History

Extreme Weather WatchBy John Lawrence

Vanuatu is a small island in the Pacific that was effectively wiped out by a Category 5 cyclone. It is emblematic of the plight of small islands at the mercy of global warming.

On March 17, Cyclone Pam swept through the Pacific island nation, an archipelago of over 200 islands located in the South Pacific and home to approximately 270,000 people. Packing winds of up to 155 miles per hour, the cyclone caused widespread devastation.

Around 75,000 people were left in need of emergency shelter, and 96 per cent of food crops were destroyed. Since most of Vanuatu’s food comes from subsistence farming, there is a disastrous food shortage in the wake of the storm. 95% of homes were destroyed. Tens of thousands of people were left homeless. There is little or no drinking water and people are drinking sea water to stay alive.

There was very little loss of life considering the magnitude of the destruction. That was because buildings there are made of natural materials and not construction grade masonry. Chunks of falling masonry are what actually kills people.

The IPCC 4th assessment report identifies small island states as being the most vulnerable countries of the world to the adverse impacts of climate change. Low-lying coral islands are particularly at risk. Climate change is already affecting Pacific Islands with dramatic revenue loss across sectors such as agriculture, water resources, forestry and tourism.

Boston Sets Record

Boston set a winter record for snowfall with more than 108.6 inches, the snowiest season ever. The previous record was set in the 1995-1996 season. Global warming causes more moisture to be held in the atmosphere from where it can fall to earth in any form of precipitation including snow and hail. Just because it’s snow is no indication that there is no global warming going on. Despite the cold and severe winter in the American northeast, data shows that overall the winter of 2014-15 was the warmist on record for planet Earth as a whole.

On March 25, 2015, a round of severe thunderstorms struck portions of the Southern Plains and Ozark Mountains after a surprisingly tornado-free first 24 days of the month. Tornado activity is revving up just after one of the most severe winters on record. There is no rest for the weary.

The storms spawned at least eight tornados – three in northwestern Arkansas, three in northeastern Oklahoma near Tulsa, and at least two in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore – along with at least 178 reports of large hail and 52 reports of strong, damaging winds. Moore, Oklahoma is where an EF5 tornado struck in 2013 killing 24 people and causing $2 billion in property damage.

California Introduces Mandatory Water Restrictions

Gov. Jerry Brown imposed mandatory water restrictions for the first time in California history on residents and businesses but not farming, ordering cities and towns in the drought-ravaged state to reduce usage by 25%.

“We’re in a new era,” Brown told reporters. “The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day, that’s going to be a thing of the past.”

CA-Drought-Monitor-550x309The 25% cut in usage amounts to roughly 1.5 million acre-feet of water (an acre foot of water equals about 325,000 gallons) over the next nine months, state officials said.

“This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” Brown told reporters, standing on a patch of dry, brown grass in the Sierra Nevada mountains that is usually blanketed by up to 5 feet of snow.

The traditional snow season ended April 1 with what appears to be the most dismal Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack on record, cementing 2015’s status as the fourth drought year in a row and setting the stage for a difficult summer in California and nearby states.

Elsewhere in the World

On March 5 Capracotta, Italy got 100.8 inches of snow. That’s over 5 inches per hour for 18 straight hours. This may be a world record for most snow accumulation in a 24 hour period. It’s not officially a record yet though because establishing it as a record requires much paperwork and bureaucratese.

From Huffington Post:

“[There is a lot] of discussion and paperwork associated with creating these international evaluation teams (e.g., what countries must be represented, what representatives they recommend, what experts must we have on such a committee and so forth),” Cerveny, the WMO’s chief “rapporteur” of weather and climate extremes, told HuffPost in an email. “So, unfortunately, we won’t have any decision one way or other for quite sometime.”

Flash floods killed at least 38 people in Tanzania on March 5 after strong winds and hail battered villages. The floods also destroyed food crops. Several parts of Tanzania have been hit by flash floods at the start of the long rainy season that runs from March to May.

On March 27 the heaviest rainfall in 80 years caused massive flooding in the Atacama region of northern Chile and devastating landslides in Peru. The death toll in Chile currently stands at seven, with 19 others unaccounted for as the military rushed to rescue stranded villagers. Rivers have burst their banks, flooding towns, making roads impassable and forcing miners in Chile, the world’s top copper exporter, to suspend operations.

March 6: Fires have been raging in the thousands of years old forests of southern Argentina in Patagonia. The Patagonia forest fires have been called the worst fires in the country’s history.

fire stormMarch 14: A forest fire in Chile threatened the port cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, and a state of emergency was declared. Authorities said that more than 4,500 people were evacuated and a further 10,000 may need to be moved. They estimate that about 740 acres of land were affected.

In Australia Cyclone Nathan formed on March 9 in the Coral Sea. Nathan hung around for two weeks dumping huge amounts of water. Torrential downpours brought 4.3 inches to Maningrida and 6 inches to Milingimbi in 24 hours. Accumulations of around 4 to 6 inches were reported across the remote areas of Arnhem Land.

From ThinkProgress:

We may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures. There is “a vast and growing body of research,” as Climate Central explained in February. “Humanity is about to experience a historically unprecedented spike in temperatures.”

A March study, “Near-term acceleration in the rate of temperature change,” makes clear that an actual acceleration in the rate of global warming is imminent — with Arctic warming rising a stunning 1°F per decade by the 2020s.

Scientists note that some 90 percent of global heating goes into the oceans — and ocean warming has accelerated in recent years.

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