Hurricane Florence photographed from the ISS. Photo: Wikipedia
26 Jul 2021

Extreme weather in small localized areas could be our new global reality for years to come

Almost all parts of the world have been experiencing some kind of unusual and extreme weather phenomenon in the last few weeks. According to climate impact scientists, what is currently happening globally is far beyond what the computer models for climate change had predicted. 

Typhoon In-fa has pulled in over  China's east coast and is approaching Shanghai and several other cities in eastern China. Trains and planes have been canceled and residents are barricading themselves.

63 dead in China 
At noon on Sunday, the typhoon reached the east coast of China with wind speeds of around 38 seconds, according to state media.

At least 63 people have died after storms and floods in China in recent weeks and over one million people have been evacuated.

In Shanghai, schools and markets were closed on Saturday and some roads were closed. On Sunday, flights were canceled, as were most trains and residents crouched in the face of the approaching storm.

"We will do everything we can to ensure that people's lives and property are safe and everything to minimize losses. Our goal is that no one should die and that injuries and financial losses should be kept down as far as possible, says Yuan Jiajun, chairman of the Communist Party of Zhejiang Province, according to state media.

 

Extreme weather affecting the Olympics in Tokyo
Meanwhile, the tropical storm Nepartak is heading in over Japan. This may affect the Olympics, especially outdoor games which may need to be canceled due to heavy rain and storm gusts.

The tropical storm is expected to pull in late on Monday or on Tuesday local time.

Extreme weather phenomena comes as yet another blow for the Olympic games in Tokyo. The humidity is already high and the temperatures have been approaching 33 degrees C / 91,5 F.

This is the second extreme weather front affecting  East Asia in a very short time:  Only days after storm Bernd wreaked havoc in central Europe, 33 people died and more than a hundreds of  thousands were  evacuated from heavy rains causing floods in China's Henan province last week. According to the country's army,  there was a severe risk that a dam in the area could have collapsed.

 

Hospitals flooded in the UK

Two hospitals in London, UK have been hit by floods in their emergency departments. The rain is expected to continue this week and authorities have issued over twenty weather warnings.

On Sunday, London was struck by heavy rain, which caused several flooding incidents in the city. Roads and metro stations were shut down and according to the BBC, the rescue service has received over a thousand alarms about floods.

Two hospitals, Newham Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital, had their emergency rooms filled with water.

"We're still here if you need us, but to help us fix things, please visit a nearby hospital if possible." wrote Newham Hospital on Twitter on Sunday night.

According to the news agency AFP, the police had to close a road in south-west London where three double deckers got stuck under a railway bridge, with water gushing over the passengers.

There have also been report of residents having had waist-high water in their homes, writes The Guardian.

According to meteorologists, the downpour is due to the previous heat wave: the heat in the earth's surface has risen and met with the cooler air, which creates violent rain.

 

Smoke from the wildfires in western US is spreading all over the continent

The wildfire situation in the western parts of the US and Canada continue to be catastrophic. The amount of wildfires are not yet at the level they were in 2017-2018, however considering wildfire season is happening earlier in the year than normal,  the fear is that it will go on for months and greatly surpass those of recent years. Siberia is also experiencing devastating forest fires.

Hundreds of fires are raging in the United States and Canada after the record heat. In Oregon, where the worst wildfire is raging, more than 2,000 firefighters are struggling to contain the Bootleg fire. 

The largest fire right now, in the state of Oregon in the western United States, covers an area larger than 1300 square kilometers (135,000 hectares).

2,300 firefighters are working in the area, and the smoke has affected the air quality as far away as the the east coast and New York.

A total of 22,000 firefighters are currently working to put out fires in the western United States.

 

Extreme drought in California
Farmers are also struggling due to the drought and heat. Many find it difficult to get water and feed for the animals and some have even lost animals in the fires.

 San Francisco, California is experiencing one of the worst periods of drought in US history. 
 

In the province of British Columbia, Canada, where only weeks ago experienced a historic heatwave claimed over 700 lives and destroyed an entire town due to a forest fire, evacuation is now in preparation for communities all across the southern interior of the province, affecting at least 17,000 people.

Hundreds of uncontrolled wildfires are raging in the province of BC, and the provincial government has declared a State of Emergency. Last  week, firefighters from other parts of Canada arrived to help, as well as firefighting teams from Mexico. 

 

Finnish heatwave and out of control forest fires

In the north of Finland, a historic heatwave with temperatures approaching 35 degrees Celsius  (95 F) has been affecting areas in the Finnish regions of Lappland which are normally not used to high temperatures. Long periods of drought leaves the area vulnerable to wildfires as well. Hospitals in Helsinki have been overloaded by patients seeking medical attention due to heatstroke and other complications due to the heat. 

Over 200 people died last week in rainstorm Bernd, which was localized storm affecting very specific parts of central Europe, most severely in Germany. Also Belgium held a National Day of Mourning on Wednesday July 20th, to remember and honour the 31 belgians confirmed dead and the 70 persons still reported missing due to the destruction caused by the extreme weather.

 

More severe local weather patterns than the climate researchers expected

Some scientists are now thinking there could be a connection with the polar glaciers melting so fast, and the recent extreme weather situations affecting many areas on the globe more or less at the same time.

Environmental science professor Johan Rockström,  head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, says that the world´s scientists have not been able to predict these these extreme weather patterns affecting so many parts of the world so severely in such a short time.

He describes the current weather phenomena as "shocking", and likely connected to each other. 

However, rather than blaming the extreme current conditions on the general warming of the climate, he refers to cutting edge research looking towards drastic changes in ocean water currents like the Gulf Stream, caused by the polar caps in the Arctic regions melting faster than expected. 

According to an interview in SVT.se, Rockström says that when the water current across the oceans are finding new ways across the planets, it not only creates new local micro climates, it also causes weather patterns - like local storms or local extreme high pressure zones - to stay in place longer over one particular area, rather than moving from one area to another. 

According to Rockström, this could explain why so much rain is falling in one small area, while others are getting no rain at all for long periods of time. And, more importantly, he stresses: All these weather phenomena are likely connected globally. 

"We are a experiencing much more intense climate impact right now than we could predict for the level of global warming that we currently have. We know CO2 from burning fossil fuels are contributing, but this is more severe than we thought. One very viable theory is the interruption of oceanic currents causing extreme weather behavior", he says to SVT.se. 

 

Photo Credit: 
Hurricane Florence ( Wikipedia Commons, Sept. 12, 2018)  Cameras outside the International Space Station captured a stark and sobering view of Hurricane Florence the morning of Sept. 12 as it churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour. The National Hurricane Center forecasts additional strengthening for Florence before it reaches the coastline of North Carolina and South Carolina early Friday, Sept. 14.