Heavy rains accompanied by deadly flooding hit the United States and several countries over the weekend and last week.
There were several dozen deaths in the central and southern regions of South Korea, including the Chongju region where an underpass flooded and drowned motorists trapped in their submerged vehicles.
In the US, flooding has claimed five lives in Upper Makefield Township, Pennsylvania, where the search for two missing children is underway. Flooding also hit parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey this past week. A state of emergency has been declared in New Jersey by Governor Phil Murphy after extensive damage from flooding and landslides.
This follows the incessant flooding last week in India, Japan, China, Turkey and the US
Although devastating floods occur in different parts of the world, atmospheric scientists say they have one thing in common: With climate change, storms are forming in a warmer atmosphere, which making heavy rains a more frequent reality today. The increased warming that scientists predict is coming will only make it worse.
That’s because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, resulting in storms that drop more rain that can have deadly consequences. Pollutants, especially carbon dioxide and methane, warm the atmosphere. Instead of letting the heat radiate away from the Earth into space, they trap it.
While climate change is not the cause of storms that release rain, these storms form in an atmosphere that is warming and wetting.
“Sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit can hold twice as much water as 50 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Rodney Wynn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay. “Warm air expands and cold air contracts. You can think of it as a balloon – when it’s heated the volume increases, so it can hold more moisture.”
For every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degree Fahrenheit) that the atmosphere warms, it holds approximately 7% more moisture. According to NASA, the average global temperature has increased by at least 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880.
“When a thunderstorm develops, the water vapor condenses into rain droplets and falls back to the surface. So while these storms form in warmer environments that have more moisture in them, the rain will increase,” explained Brian Soden, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami.
Along Turkey’s mountainous and beautiful Black Sea coast, heavy rains overflow rivers and damage cities with floods and landslides.
At least 15 people died in flooding in another mountainous region, in southwest China.
“As the climate warms, we expect heavy rain events to become more common, this is a strong prediction of climate models,” added Soden. “It’s not surprising to see these events happening, it’s what the models have been predicting since day one.”
Gavin Schmidt, climatologist and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said that the regions most affected by climate change are not the ones that emit the most pollutants that warm the planet.
“Most of the emissions come from industrialized Western countries and most of the impacts are happening in places that don’t have good infrastructure, that are less prepared for extreme weather and don’t have real management methods. this,” said Schmidt.
In last week’s flooding, schools in New Delhi were forced to close on July 10 after heavy rains lashed the Indian capital, with landslides and flooding killing at least 15 people. Further north, the overflowing Beas River washed away cars downstream as it flooded neighborhoods.
In Japan, heavy rains pounded the southwest, triggering floods and mudslides that left two people dead and at least six others missing. Local TV showed destroyed houses in Fukuoka prefecture and muddy water from the swollen Yamakuni River appeared to threaten a bridge in the town of Yabakei.
In Ulster County, New York’s Hudson Valley and Vermont, some said the flooding was the worst they’d seen since the devastation of Hurricane Irene in 2011.
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