The US is Getting Hit By Extreme Weather From All Sides
The hazards are many. And they seem to come in all forms. From a report: The southwestern U.S. is reeling from record rainfall and extensive flooding from a rare tropical storm. Much of the central and southern parts of the country are in the grips of yet another oppressive heat wave. Nearly two weeks after catastrophic wildfires devastated the Hawaiian island of Maui, more fires are raging in the Pacific Northwest. And after a quiet start to this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, activity in the basin is ramping up. All told, the various extremes are making for a turbulent week in nearly every corner of the country. Climate scientists also say it’s an all-too-real look at how global warming increases the risks — and consequences — of the deadly events. “We’re looking at a multi-hazard situation, where we’re being hit by a string of different events over a short period of time,” said Gonzalo Pita, an associate scientist and expert in disaster risk modeling at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s like a double or triple whammy, and when they happen frequently or at the same time, the negative effects are compounded.”
While it’s sometimes difficult to measure the exact role of climate change in any particular weather event, scientists know that global warming is having an overall effect on the frequency and severity of such events. Studies have shown, for instance, that heat waves and drought are more likely in a warming world. Dry conditions subsequently increase the risk of wildfires. Similarly, warmer-than-usual oceans are a key ingredient for tropical storms and hurricanes to form. A warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, making the storms rainier and likelier to cause flooding. Those types of compounding risks will be on full display this week. Tropical Storm Hilary on Sunday became the first to hit Southern California in 84 years, dumping record rain over the region and causing widespread flash flooding. Though Hilary has weakened into a post-tropical cyclone, 26 million people were still under flood alerts Monday across parts of California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Idaho.