Climate Change Strikes the White House, and Enhances Rain Storms

Climate Change Strikes the White House, and Enhances Rain Storms

Trump finally found out why people call Washington D.C. a swamp.  He finally found out what it really means to be an flood victim.  Trump finally had a situation where he actually had to drain a piece of the swamp, rather than just adding more alligators to it with every political appointment.  Unfortunately, Trump is probably overjoyed that the flooding was in the dungeon where he confines the press corp.  The press corp actually often floods in rain storms.  They also have to endure a flood of administrative assertions that have to be fact checked.

A lingering rain storm dumped over three inches of rain in an hour on Washington D.C, which exceeded that old record.  The storm also dumped 0.69 inches in 11 minutes at Reagan International airport.  As I recall, the land around Chesapeake Bay has actually been sinking.  Five rivers, including the Potomac, flow into the Bay.

Trump can take the long trip down to the press office, after being shown where it is, and can then do his free throws of paper towels, as he did to Puerto Rico after their hurricane.  In this case, they will be useful.

Trump always likes citing records to show that climate change is not happening.  In this case, no comment.

Besides flooding around DC, there is a storm raining hard on New Orleans, which may turn into a category 1 hurricane, named Barry.  The Mississippi is expected to reach its highest height since 1950, already high from previous storms over the country, and 8 feet above normal.  Up to two feet of rain may be possible.  Also, a possible 3-6 foot storm surge from the hurricane is possible.  This is the worst triple threat situation.  Furthermore, New Orleans closed the storm drains in case the storm surge might push unhealthy water back into the city.  The New Orleans pumps can only remove 1/2 inch of rain an hour.

Trump spent the morning retweeting charges over Hillary and Obama about Trump’s election, and spying, and emails.  Finally, he or somebody retweeted something useful about preparing for hurricane Barry.

My iRain rain map app from UC Irvine showed massive rain over Florida.  No wonder Trump was retweeting today.   It also showed a new color, pink, for rain greater than 24 inches in 72 hours, over the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans.

While scientists cannot attribute particular storms to global warming, the atmosphere is on average 1.8º F higher since pre-industrial times.  This allows air st saturate with more moisture.  As the water vapor condenses, it gives up heat, which causes the warmer air to rise.  The rising air brings in air, which starts rotating from the Coriolis force, and makes high winds and storm surges.  So this is storm enhancement from climate change.   It’s hard to imagine that Trump’s White House science advisor, a meteorologist, hasn’t at some time explained this to him.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Patricola at Lawrence Berkeley Lab shows that climate change has warmed the Gulf waters by 0.5º C to 2.0º C, which is 0.9ºF to 3.6ºF.  This has increased the rain content of tropical storms by 9%.  For storm of 22 inches of rain before climate change, that would add another 2.0 inches of rain.  A further problem with flooding is that the ground has already been saturated with water from previous rain storms.

Power outages have affected 116,000.  Fortunately, the storm center is passing between New Orleans and Houston, and winds have decreased to 60 mph.  Trump has signed the emergency aid a few hours after the request.  And the river crest forecasts have reduced flooding by 2 to 3 feet.  They still expect serous flash floods tonight.

I went to a climate action meeting this morning, including how to lobby lawmakers.  I can’t imagine that these rains do not make an impression on Gulf State lawmakers that climate change can be very dangerous and costly.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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