climate change and bad luck gave us extreme weather of august 2020

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 minutes.

MOST OF US NEVER HEARD OF “DRY LIGHTNING” until re­cently. It is cloud-to-ground light­ning without any nearby rain­fall. A dry light­ning storm over Mitchell’s Cove in Santa Cruz, Cal­i­fornia, caused more than 10,000 bursts of light­ning be­tween Au­gust 15 and Au­gust 19, 2020, which in turn set off dev­as­tating wild­fires across Cal­i­fornia. Ac­cording to cli­mate sci­en­tist Daniel Swain, of the In­sti­tute of the En­vi­ron­ment and Sus­tain­ability at UCLA, that is ‘an un­be­liev­able number to say out loud, even in the last few years.” Which is, alas, more than mere bad luck.

The phe­nom­enon and others are ad­dressed in “What’s be­hind Au­gust 2020’s ex­treme weather? Cli­mate change and bad luck” by Car­olyn Gram­ling for Sci­ence News (Au­gust 27, 2020). The sub­title to her piece is “The month of Au­gust alone has brought hur­ri­canes, wild­fires and a derecho.” Gram­ling in­tro­duces her ar­ticle with these paragraphs:

“Au­gust 2020 has been a dev­as­tating month across large swaths of the United States: As pow­erful Hur­ri­cane Laura bar­reled into the U.S. Gulf Coast on Au­gust 27, fires con­tinued to blaze in Cal­i­fornia. Mean­while, farmers are still as­sessing wide­spread damage to crops in the Mid­west fol­lowing an Au­gust 10 derecho, a sudden, hurricane-force windstorm.

Each of these ex­treme weather events was the re­sult of a par­tic­ular set of atmospheric—and in the case of Laura, oceanic—conditions. In part, it’s just bad luck that the United States is being slammed with these events back-to-back-to-back. But for some of these events, such as in­tense hur­ri­canes and more fre­quent wild­fires, sci­en­tists have long warned that cli­mate change has been set­ting the stage for disaster.”

The au­thor also men­tions a derecho that struck the mid­western United States on Au­gust 10. The word derecho is from Spanish and roughly trans­lates as ‘straight ahead.’

“These storms have winds ri­valing the strength of a hur­ri­cane or tor­nado but push for­ward in one di­rec­tion in­stead of ro­tating. By de­f­i­n­i­tion, a derecho pro­duces sus­tained winds sim­ilar to the fury of tropical-storm-force winds), nearly con­tin­u­ously for at least 400 kilo­me­ters. The Au­gust derecho flat­tened mil­lions of hectares of crops, up­rooted trees, dam­aged homes, flipped trucks, and left hun­dreds of thou­sands of people without power.”

To read this ar­ticle in its en­tirety, click HERE.


MitchellsCove 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of dry light­ning over Mitchell’s Cove in Santa Cruz, Cal­i­fornia. It was part of a rare and se­vere storm system that trig­gered wild­fires across the state. This photo was taken on Au­gust 16, 2020, by Samuel Thaler for The Santa Cruz Sen­tinel via the As­so­ci­ated Press.


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