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Harvey: Fierce Climate Change at Work

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Photo by The National Guard | CC BY 2.0

Is Harvey a force of nature or something more?

Clearly, Harvey is a natural disaster of monstrous proportions. Its destructiveness is the hottest topic on TV coast-to-coast and around the world. Still, cynics of climate change say natural disasters, like hurricanes, are normal and nothing more than nature’s way. The evidence, however, points in another direction; climate change is no longer simply nature doing its thing. It’s lost purity of the force of nature, only nature.

Similar to the record setting massive meltdown of Arctic ice in a flash of geologic time, fierce storms and zany weather patterns are setting all-time records, hyper-speeding nature’s time clock. In point of fact, bigger/faster all-time records have become the norm, racing ahead of nature, prompting the question: Why is this happening?

The likely answer is: The human footprint is driving climate change to hyper speed; in some instances 10xs faster than climate change over the past millennia.

Indeed, today’s rapidly changing climate is the upshot of the Great Acceleration or post WWII human footprint into/onto the ecosystem, with authority, knocking down weather records along the way. Abnormal is now normal. One-hundred-year floods are passé, outmoded, old hat. Epic floods and historic droughts are the norm. It’s all happened within the past couple of decades. Recent examples include the following:

It was only a couple of years ago that Hurricane Sandy caused $75B in damages as the 2nd costliest hurricane in U.S. history. But then again, New York is not located in hurricane country. Still, it happened and is but one more example of a climate gone bonkers.

In France in 2003, the hottest heat wave in over 500 years killed approximately 15,000, as well as 70,000 throughout Europe. Stifling heat hung in the air for months, no movement, atmospheric troughs of jet streams stood still, likely influenced and altered by global warming, specifically via radical changes in the Arctic, which is losing its bright reflecting ice cap that used to reflect up to 90% of solar radiation back into outer space. But, alas, warming 2xs-to-3xs the world average hit Arctic ice, losing much its reflective cover, with danger signals ever-present thereafter, like crazed out-of-whack jet streams (which negatively alter weather patterns throughout the Northern Hemisphere) to methane eruptions from below, potentially endangering all life forms with runaway global warming.

Meanwhile, drought clobbered the Middle East, especially Syria, experiencing its worst-ever drought in 900 years, displacing one-to-two million farmers/herders and contributing to Syria’s socio/economic disruption, leading to conflict.

Throughout the Middle Eastern region “it’s well outside the norm of natural variability indicating that a climate change signal is likely emerging in the region.” (Source: Benjamin I. Cook, et al, Spatiotemporal Drought Variability in the Mediterranean Over the Last 900 Years, Journal of Geophysical Research- Atmospheres, DOI: 10.1002/2015/D023929)

The regular ole brand of climate change for hundreds and thousands of years is history. In the past, when tropical storms and hurricanes hit, swooshing onshore, they’d die-off when hitting land. That’s nature marching to its own drummer.

Whereas, Harvey hits and then hits again and again while carrying boatloads of moisture, well above and beyond any storm ever recorded. Cause and effect, it’s the human footprint, too much of everything, including too much CO2 emitted from planes, trains, and automobiles and power plants and big fat cows weighing down the atmosphere, heating things up and altering jet streams that dictate weather patterns. It’s a deadly cocktail of nature plus the human footprint of the Great Acceleration deviously at work!

Harvey is so monstrous that it brings forth the best of the best talking heads, a prerequisite with something so momentous, so absolutely huge, all encompassing. For example, Michael Mann (Pennsylvania State University), one of America’s most illustrious atmospheric scientists writing for the Guardian, says “human action” made Harvey worse because (1) anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has raised seawater levels, goosing the storm surge, and (2) higher temperatures than in the past cause more moisture in the atmosphere meaning more rainfall, and (3) Harvey mysteriously hovers over Houston, not dying over land like hurricanes always do because human-caused global warming has altered weather patterns. (Source: Mann, M. E. et al. Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events. Sci. Rep. 7, 45242; doi: 10.1038/srep45242, 2017).

Meanwhile, day-over-day, hour-by-hour Houstonians fight for survival, but back in Washington, D.C., Trump’s proposed budget calls for a 16% cut to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which serves as the public’s eyes and ears for all things atmospheric, satellite and weather related. For example $513M is cut from NOAA”s satellite division, potentially crippling NOAA’s ability to keep afloat key satellites relied upon by business, military, and weather services for the general public.

“Scientists and meteorologists have worried that the cuts, and much more devastating reductions in climate change programs at NASA and other agencies, would harm the agency’s ability to forecast storms. In recent decades, the improvement in forecasting technologies has saved hundreds of lives, especially when it comes to tornadoes. The National Weather Service notes that hundreds used to die from pop up tornadoes like the ones that blew through Oklahoma in the mid-1970s, and that deaths are way down due to accurate predictions.” (Source: Matthew Cooper, Trump’s Proposed Cuts to Weather Research Could Make it Much Harder to Prepare for Storms, Grist- Climate Desk, Aug. 25, 2017).

The tragedy of Houston is heartrendingly supremely more tragic under guidance of the Trump administration, which is cutting anything and everything related to science. By all appearances, Trump has a bone to pick with intellectual and scientific matters of state. He’s uncomfortable unless involved in primitive elementary scenarios, like speaking before a crowd of glassy-eyed lackeys.

As it happens, Houston’s mourning exposes and brings to the surface Trump’s destructionist mentality in pure numbers that will soon be presented to the public via congress for consideration.

Trump’s budget proposal cuts $667M from FEMA state and local funding, including disaster preparedness and response programs and cuts $90M from FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation program and eliminates the entire $190M for national flood insurance analysis program. Henceforth, states and localities will contribute 25% toward grants that they previously did not fund.

The same Trump budget that cuts FEMA programs by about $1B proposes $2.6B in funding for The Wall. For this spending proposal Trump is willing to shut down the government to force Congress to pay up or be damned/blamed for shutting down the fiefdom.

But, will The Wall prevent storms or will it perversely create more?

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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