Thursday, August 24, 2017

Who saw this coming?

By Don Kent
Chief Meteorologist

Last week Harvey was as its name implied just a harmless mass of warm moist water vapor chugging away near the Yucatan.  Now it's expected to hit the Texas coast as a Category 3 hurricane, bringing with it,  in the words of the normally staid National Hurricane Service, “LIFE-THREATENING AND DEVASTATING FLOODING.”

What happened?

According to scientists who observe climate for a living, the rapid intensification of the storm over the Gulf of Mexico was due to the enormous energy trapped in the ever-hotter waters of the Gulf of Mexico, in many places in excess of 90°.  Here's one scary Tweet for ya':

We've heard that them he-man tall-in-the-saddle Texans staring into the face of this cataclysm are whining about why they didn't get more advance warning so they could stock up on long-necks and ammo.  But those of us who have paid even scant attention to the warnings of climate experts over the past 25 years haven't been so surprised.

In fact, just last week at the movies a nice grandfatherly guy with a friendly Southern accent named Al told his audience that ever more severe storms were a likely consequence of climate change because warmer oceans store more potential energy that hurricanes feed on.  I wonder what Maureen Dowd would think of him?

In fact, the pace of ocean warming since 1970 has been to quote one study, “robust.”  This is why real climate scientists (that is to say, not former community-college history instructors now shoveling reactionary anti-science talking points for The Washington Post) fear more dangerous hurricanes and other ocean storms.  The Union of Concerned Scientists has summarized the relevant learning thusly:
Because of this link between warm oceans and hurricane behavior, warming of the surface ocean can increase the intensity of hurricanes, with the stronger ones getting the biggest boost.

While hurricanes that make landfall are comparatively rare, they are responsible for vast economic damage in the United States.

Two other factors may also be contributing to the rising intensities of hurricanes. First, warm air holds more water vapor than cold air—and the rising air temperatures since the 1970s have caused the atmospheric water vapor content to rise as well.

This increased moisture provides additional fuel for hurricanes. Indeed, hurricanes indicate a trend toward producing more torrential downpours, both in the historical record and in climate models that project future conditions.

Second, as ocean temperatures rise, there is also less cold, subsurface ocean water to serve as a braking mechanism for hurricanes. When strong storm winds churn up cold subsurface water, the cooler waters can serve to weaken the storm. But if deeper waters become too warm, this natural braking mechanism weakens. Hurricane Katrina, for example, intensified significantly when it hit deep pools of warm water in the Gulf of Mexico.

You could hardly blame Texans for not paying attention to climate change and its likely effect on them (inundation).  Their former governor, now a coatholder in the Grifter-in-Chief Regime, spends his days promoting well-washed coal as the solution for all of our woes.  Their current governor, like every other Republican plutocrat and whackjob that Bubba has put in charge of their state, thinks the whole global-warming thing is just a lot of cow pie:
[M]any scientists believe that certain human activities impact the climate. Others dispute the extent to which any activity has a particular level of influence on the climate, which is why this matter needs to continue to be investigated.
Hope the Noahide flooding that will cripple Texas for months if not years doesn't cause all that investigating to slow down too bad.

But not to worry – the cowboy libertarians of Texas are happy to get off their high horse and head to the Federal chuck wagon when it comes to paying for their climate change denial.  When Hurricane Ike wiped out Galveston a few years ago, Texas was perfectly happy to load up the saddlebags with over $12,000,000,000 in federal aid to pump itself out.

Maybe when Governor Abbott, Loathsome Ted Cruz, and John “All-Hat” Cornyn attempt to raid the Treasury to clean up the mess left by Harvey and their own bought-and-paid-for fact-free climate change denialism, America should tell them that their hurricane victims don't need federal money.  Just like the sick poor of Texas, condemned to suffering and death by Texas's refusal of Medicaid expansion.

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