Expect more of these extremes as the planet warms, and prepare for them, said Kevin Reed, a climate scientist at Stony Brook University.
“Every weather event has some flavor of climate change because it’s impossible to separate them,” Reed told CNN. “It’s another sign that climate change is here. It’s not just a challenge for the next 400 years from now or 50 years from now; in fact, it’s something we need to quickly adapt to, adapt to and become more resilient now.”
Climate experts predict that the intensity and frequency of heavy rainfall will increase as the planet warms, because warmer air can hold more moisture. This concept is easy for most people to understand in the event of a hurricane, Reed said.
But this same process takes place on land as water evaporates from the soil, grasses, crops, and forests. More moisture can be extracted from soil and vegetation, the warmer it is.
“Part of that is the general circulation of the atmosphere and ocean system that moves air around the world and brings moisture to areas on land,” Reed said. “Another aspect is that over the past 100 years, the Earth’s surface has actually warmed more than the ocean, so the biggest signal we’re really seeing in surface temperature is happening on land and inland as well.”
What adds to it is the high risk of serious flooding.
“In many ways, it is isolated flood events in urban centers that will see much of the risk and risk amplification in the future,” Smith said. “We have more confidence in finding (a link to climate change) for these types of local extreme precipitation events.”
“It seems to happen frequently,” he added.
Floods, wildfires, heat waves and drought paint a picture of a nation in peril. And while part of the country is recovering from torrential rains, another part could burn from deadly fires.
The McKinney fire in Northern California, which exploded in size over the weekend to become the largest in the state so far this year, erupted out of control Monday amid a historic drought in the West.
The fires generated their own weather in the form of pyrocumulus clouds, which are caused by intense heat that forces the air to rise rapidly and is a sign of how hot and burning the fires are.
Meanwhile, meteorologists with the National Weather Service warned that “dry lightning” was possible on Monday – a phenomenon made more likely by the exceptional drought. The dry air evaporates the storm’s rain before it ever hits the ground, leaving only lightning strikes capable of igniting new fires and fanning existing fires, said Robert Shackleford, a CNN meteorologist.
“Passing climate law and moving forward politically in the United States is really important and related to preventing and trying to reduce the amount of rain falling from the sky that causes events as we see in Kentucky, Yellowstone and St. Louis,” Tillman said.
“This is a real impact on our lives, so we need more mitigation and good climate legislation, and we also have to invest in adaptation to reduce the impact in the future,” she added. “It’s only going to get worse if we don’t limit warming.”
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