Monthly Archives: August 2014

Increased severity of droughts

August 21, 2014

One thing I remember from chemistry class at the University of Washington is balancing the equation on both sides (the other thing would be cute pre-med students).  And so much to my professors credit, 15 years later it makes sense to me that along with increased intensity in rainfall in some parts of the world is increasing intensity of droughts in other parts of the world.  The globe is one equation and it will, it must naturally balance.

Unusually low lake water levels in California (Lake Mead, Getty Images)

Unusually low lake water levels in California (Lake Mead, Getty Images)

At the beginning of the year California’s governor, Jerry Brown, declared  a drought emergency for the state as it perhaps faces its worst drought in over a hundred years.  California’s drought isn’t just this season;  below average rainfall three years in a row sustains this prolonged and severe drought.  It’s now August and the affliction still hasn’t cured itself, but seems to have settled in as the new norm.  Click here to see a photo gallery.

Where has all the water gone?  Perhaps some of it rained down on places like Hiroshima, Japan, which experienced record-breaking rainfall on Wednesday.



Increased rainfall and landslide events

August 20, 2014

Most proponents of climate change say climate change is already here and the record-breaking temperatures and rainfall data we see in the news is the new norm.  Earlier this year for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global consortium of scientists assessing climate change, released their fifth assessment report, stating with confidence that the world will experience higher risks due to extreme weather events.  

Hiroshima’s devastating landslides today gives weight to the scientists’ claim in a more real and emotional way.  The landslides struck without warning at about 330 am Japan time killing 39 people.  One victim was a firefighter who had just rescued five people from a collapsed residential building.

The culprit was an underestimated slow-moving thunderstorm that dumped a record-breaking 8.5 inches of rain in three hours.  The last record wasn’t even half that amount.  According to scientists these kind of record-shattering weather events are the new norm and predict worse is yet to come.   Per the Weather Channel, landslides in Japan have increased to nearly 1200 per year in the last decade compared to 770 per year in the decade before.  That is an alarming 156% increase.

And yet its just another day for the world at large.  Some accuse climate change scientists as alarmists (some probably are), but I think on the whole most of us are in denial.   The numbers speak for themselves;  like the beginnings of an illness, we ignore the symptoms hoping it miraculously cures itself.  One day I suspect, perhaps twenty years from now in 2035 barring a miracle cure, we may finally accept that our climate is not well and do something as drastic as live underground to escape the extremes of parched lands and torrential rains.  For now, aside from the 400,000 people nearest the landslides in Japan who know something is amiss, we carry on business as usual.

I won’t start constructing my hobbit-like home set into the hillside yet.  But you can bet during the next rainstorm in the middle of the night, I will be up and Adam and peer outside to check on the ground.