An Ocean of Weather

March 2, 2012

After growing up in the tornado-infested deep South, ugly weather has always scared-the-living-shit out of me — my dad’s mother always pitched a wailing fit when the wind started howling, crying about how we’re all gonna die.
After time, this display of anti-bravado made a big impression on a naive little kid trying to grow up.

Nowadays, this problem is way out of whack.

A grown daughter lives in a small town south of Nashville, Tennessee, and this morning I ache for the whole region — after the horror on Wednesday, there’s more bad weather with them asshole twisters set again for today.


(Illustration of Pablo Picasso’s Bathers found here).

When I talked to my daughter last Wednesday evening she’d told me the weather was then near-gorgeous — sunny and warm, though there had been some bad, dark clouds earlier — and her only problem was she’d tripped while jogging, skinning her knee.
I almost wanted to cry.
Now I gotta sweat through today.

In the wake of this week’s weather chaos — 33 confirmed tornadoes killing 13 people — there’s more to come, with a potential of being even worse.
Early this morning from ABC News:

The National Weather Service has indicated a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms for the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys.
These storms are be capable of producing winds of 75 miles per hour, large hail and long-lived significant tornadoes, according to the NWS.
“That area centered on Tennessee and especially Kentucky looks like it has the potential for some rather long track, what we call super cell storms or tornadoes along and ahead of a cold front,” Thompson said (Rich Thompson, lead forecaster with the National Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.)
“And if that actually occurs this would be the type of scenario where we could have some fairly strong longtrack tornadoes,” he added.
“Today actually has the potential to cause even more problems than just two days ago.”

All this crunching weather is just normal for a planet going to bad-shit quick.
In the last couple of years, the concept of “extreme weather events” has become near-part-n-parcel for a warmed-up climate, which brings about 4 percent more water into the atmosphere and thusly more crazed the environment.
This from USATODAY last September:

In 1950, U.S. record breaking hot weather days were as likely as cold ones.
By 2000, they were twice as likely, and in 2011 they are three times more likely, so far.
By the end of the century they will be 50 times more likely, Meehl says (Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research).

“There’s really no such thing as natural weather anymore,” says climate scientist Donald Wuebbles of the University of Illinois, who was not involved with the report, but said he largely agreed with its conclusions.
“Anything that takes place today in the weather system has been affected by the changes we’ve made to the climate system.
That’s just the background situation and it’s good for people to know that,” Wuebbles says.
Although scientists cannot immediately tie what percentage of an extreme weather event relies on global warming to make it more severe, he says.
“It’s always a factor in today’s world.”

And from from Dr. Jeff Masters yesterday on Wednesday’s twister outbreak:

Violent February tornadoes are rare in February.
The Tornado History Project lists eighteen EF-4 and one EF-5 tornadoes in the U.S. during the month of February since 1950 — an average of one violent February tornado every three years.
Part of the reason for this is the lack of warm, unstable air so early in the year.
However, this year’s unusually mild winter has led to ocean temperatures across the Gulf of Mexico that are approximately 1°C above average — among the top ten warmest values on record, going back to the 1800s.
Averaged over the month of February, the highest sea surface temperatures on record in the Gulf between 20 – 30°N, 85 – 95°W occurred in 2002, when the waters were 1.34°C above average.
Yesterday’s tornado outbreak was fueled, in part, by high instability created by unusually warm, moist air flowing north from the Gulf of Mexico due to the high water temperatures there.

And those oceans are in a mess right now, as with the warming, the make-up of the water is getting deadly.
Oceans are turning into near-battery acid.
New research indicates the oceans are becoming more acidic at a much faster rate than previously figured.
Via Raw Story:

High levels of pollution may be turning the planet’s oceans acidic at a faster rate than at any time in the past 300 million years, with unknown consequences for future sea life, researchers said Thursday.

They found only one time in history that came close to what scientists are seeing today in terms of ocean life die-off — a mysterious period known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum about 56 million years ago.
Though the reason for the carbon upsurge back then remains a source of debate, scientists believe that the doubling of harmful emissions drove up global temperatures by about six degrees Celsius and caused big losses of ocean life.

“We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out — new species evolved to replace those that died off,” said lead author Barbel Honisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
“But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about — coral reefs, oysters, salmon.”
Honish and colleagues said the current rate of ocean acidification is at least 10 times faster than it was 56 million years ago.

This ain’t the stone age, or whatever — I don’t have a clue how these guys can figure out what happened 56 million years ago, or even how they can determine the amount of carbon that was in the air in 1750.
The science of climate change is beyond my brain level — but the weather is something else, that I can see out my window.
And makes me a humongous worry-wart for my children.

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