How a Warming Planet Drives Human Migration

GR:  Thoughts on Climate Change

The climate news today (and really every day now) is not good. The Times article below focuses on just one of the bad bits. Global warming and consequent shifts in weather patterns are stressing everyone, but especially those people living in equatorial regions. Droughts, fires, and floods are becoming intolerable. The emerging climate-change-driven diaspora will carry the stress north and south into temperate latitudes. Projections made by many scientists in the U. S., European Union, and Asia portray a dismal future for Earth and humanity.

A Glimpse of Future Earth

Climate-change emigrants and their descendents moving north will not escape the ravages of a warming planet for very long. Stresses in northern latitudes have already begun. As the human population squeezes north to find food and water, resources will dwindle and conflicts will intensify. Nature in even the diminished form that we see now will sink toward unsustainable levels where wild plants and animals, then watersheds, then soils, and then fresh water are lost.

As I look out across my fields of invasive weeds and my ponds and small stream choked with artificially fertilized algae and filled with invasive animals, I remember the sunflowered fields and sparkling creek of my childhood. As the pace of climate change accelerates, “the good old days” will become a meaningful phrase for younger and younger people facing a constant need to adapt to more difficult times.

Want to keep up with the changes? The Daily Climate carries the best selection of current stories I’ve found. The Daily Climate included a link to the story below along with dozens of others. (Header image:  A farmer tries to revive his unconscious cow. Photo by CNN.)

Illustration by La Tigre.

“Climate change is not equal across the globe, and neither are its longer term consequences. This map overlays human turmoil — represented here by United Nations data on nearly 64 million “persons of concern,” whose numbers have tripled since 2005 — with climate turmoil, represented by data from NASA’s Common Sense Climate Index. The correlation is striking. Climate change is a threat multiplier: It contributes to economic and political instability and also worsens the effects. It propels sudden-onset disasters like floods and storms and slow-onset disasters like drought and desertification; those disasters contribute to failed crops, famine and overcrowded urban centers; those crises inflame political unrest and worsen the impacts of war, which leads to even more displacement. There is no internationally recognized legal definition for “environmental migrants” or “climate refugees,” so there is no formal reckoning of how many have left their homes because climate change has made their lives or livelihoods untenable. In a 2010 Gallup World Poll, though, about 12 percent of respondents — representing a total of 500 million adults — said severe environmental problems would require them to move within the next five years.

  1. ‘Amazon Basin: As glacial melting reduces freshwater reserves for the Andean plain, tensions are growing between locals and the mining and agribusiness operations that consume much of what remains. Researchers predict that this resource conflict will drive more migrants to the Amazon Basin where many have already turned to informal mining and coca cultivation, fueling the rise of criminal syndicates.

  2. “Lake Chad, 3. Syria, 4. China, 5. Philippines” –Jessica Benko (New York Times: Continue reading.)

2017’s Warming Climate Produces Unprecedented Floods Across the Globe

GR: More CO2, more warming, more evaporation, and more extreme storms.

“A robust result, consistent across climate model projections, is that higher precipitation extremes in warmer climates are very likely to occur.” — IPCC

“As the climate has warmed… heat waves are longer and hotter. Heavy rains and flooding are more frequent. In a wide swing between extremes, drought, too, is more intense and more widespread.” — Climate Communications

“It’s a tough fact to get one’s head around. But a warming climate means that many regions will both experience more extreme droughts and more extreme floods. The cause for this new weather severity is that a warming planet produces higher rates of evaporation together with more intense atmospheric convection. Warmer air over land means that the moisture gets baked out of terrain, lakes and rivers faster. And this warming effect causes droughts to settle in more rapidly, to become more intense than we are used to, and to often last for longer periods.

As the climate warms, instances of extreme weather — both droughts and floods — increase. Image source: NOAA/UCAR.

“On the flip side of this severe weather coin, more moisture evaporating from the world’s lands and oceans means that the atmosphere contains a greater volume of moisture overall. This heavier moisture load enters a hotter, thicker, taller lower atmosphere (troposphere). One that is becoming increasingly stingy about giving up that moisture in the form of precipitation much of the time. All that heat and added convective energy just serves as a big moisture trap. So the load of moisture has to be heavier, overall, to fall out. When the atmospheric moisture hoarding finally relents, it does so with a vengeance. Thicker clouds with higher tops drench lands and seas with heavier volumes of rain and snow. And when the rain does fall from these larger storms, it tends to come, more and more often, in torrents.

“California Record Drought to Record Flood in Just 4 Years

“A set of facts that were drawn into stark relief recently in California which over the past few years experienced one of its driest periods on record but, in 2017, is on tap to see its wettest year ever recorded for broad regions. In a section of hard-hit Northern California, the cumulative 2017 rainfall average had, as of yesterday (April 9), hit 87.5 inches. The record for the region in all of the past 122 years is 88.5 inches for the entire year.

Cumulative precipitation in Northern California set to beat all time record during 2017. Data Source: California Department of Water Resources. Image source: The Sacramento Bee.

“It is just early April. But the region tends to receive most of its moisture from January through March. However, all it would take is a relatively minor storm system to tip the scales into record territory. And it now appears likely that this region will see in excess of 90 inches for the present year.

“Infrastructure damage from this year’s flood for the state is likely to considerably exceed $1 billion. Damage to roads alone is nearly $700 million. And that does not include stresses to dams — like the one at Lake Oroville where an eroded spillway threatened structural integrity and forced 200,000 people to evacuate. Overall, the cost of the repairs combined with the cost of hardening California’s infrastructure to these new extreme weather events could top $50 billion.” –RobertScribbler (Continue reading: 2017’s Warming Climate Produces Unprecedented Floods Across the Globe | robertscribbler.)

For Colombia, The Rain Bombs of Climate Change Fell in the Dark of Night

GR:  More from Robert Scribbler on the intense storms of global warming.

As the lower atmosphere becomes warmer, evaporation rates will increase, resulting in an increase in the amount of moisture circulating throughout the troposphere (lower atmosphere). An observed consequence of higher water vapor concentrations is the increased frequency of intense precipitation events… NASA’s Earth Observatory

“Just off the coasts of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, the Pacific Ocean has been abnormally warm of-late. For the past month, sea surface temperatures have ranged between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius above average. This excess heating of the ocean surface, facilitated by human-forced climate change, has pumped a prodigious volume of moisture into the atmosphere of this coastal region. Southerly winds running along the western edge of South America have drawn this moisture north and eastward — feeding into the prevailing storms that originate on the Atlantic side of South America and track eastwards.

Sea surface temperature anomaly map from Earth Nullschool shows 4 degree Celsius above average ocean surfaces just off-shore of Ecuadore and Colombia. These extremely warm waters have helped to fuel very severe storms over Peru and Colombia during recent weeks. Such warm ocean waters are not normal and their highest peak temperatures are being increased by a human-forced warming of the Earth, primarily through fossil fuel burning. Image source: Earth Nullschool.

“Lately, these systems have blown up to enormous size as they’ve run across the Andes or collided with pop-up storms along the coast. And the amount of rainfall coming out of the resulting monster thunderstorms has been devastating. In Peru, hundreds of thousands of people have been rendered homeless by these deluges which have caused the tragic loss of 100 souls, destroyed thousands of buildings, 200 bridges, and 2,000 miles of highway. For the state, the estimated damage toll from this ongoing climate disaster is now 6 billion dollars.

“Friday night, a member of this new breed of monster thunderstorms, pumped to greater intensity by the moisture bleed off the record warm ocean waters, unloaded a total of a half-month’s worth of rainfall in just a few hours upon the small Colombian city of Mocoa. More than five inches fell in 1-2 hours on a region where three rivers run out of the mountains toward this community of 40,000. The deluge arrived in the darkness. Its ferocious intensity unleashed a massive flood of boulders, mud, and water as the combined rivers leapt their banks and invaded the town. A nearby hillside, unable to retain integrity beneath this merciless assault of the elements, gave way — burying a large section of Macoa in rubble.” –Robert Scribbler (Continue: For Colombia, The Rain Bombs of Climate Change Fell in the Dark of Night | robertscribbler.)

Climate change pushing floods, cyclones to new extremes, with worse to come

GR: We know that global warming increases the chances for severe storms. This article provides explanations and some details on what to expect.

“With Australia experiencing the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie and record-breaking rains and severe flooding in south-east Queensland and along the north coast of New South Wales, here’s a look at how global warming has, and will, push floods and cyclones to new extremes.

Flooding extremes

“Warm air can be more humid than cold air, that is, it can hold more water vapour in absolute terms. And atmospheric water vapour content increases seven per cent for each 1-degree-Celsius increase in global average temperature, establishing the conditions for more intense rainfall events.

“Flash floods are likely to sweep across the Australian landscape with increasing intensity, particularly in urban or residential areas. Peak rainfall is predicted to soar with rising surface temperatures as Australia experiences ever greater extremes of heat.

“The frequency of major flood events (defined as events which caused extensive flooding within 50 kilometres of the coast, or inundation that extended 20 kilometres along the coast) along Australia’s eastern seaboard has doubled in last 150 years, with climate change one of the possible factors, senior Bureau of Meteorology researchers say.

“Record-breaking heavy rainfall and a clear upward trend in downpours over the last 30 years fits in with global temperature rise caused by greenhouse gases. Statistical analysis of rainfall data from 1901 to 2010 around the globe, shows that from 1980 to 2010 there were 12% more of these intense events than would be expected in a climate without global warming. Wet regions generally saw a bigger increase in deluges and drier regions a smaller one. In southeast Asia, the observed increase in record-breaking rainfall events is as high as 56%.

“Attribution studies show how the risk of a particular event may have changed due to the human influence on climate. Some attribution results surveyed by the World Meteorological Organisation include:

  • The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that human-caused climate change increased chances of the fatal and record rains in Louisiana by at least 40% percent and could have nearly doubled the odds of such a storm.
  • A scientific analysis of devastating 2014 floods in the United Kingdom, which cost an estimated $646 million in insurance losses, found that human-caused climate change has increased the chance of the extreme rain event by 43%.
  • In May-June 2016, portions of northeast France received six full weeks of rain in 24-hours. A formal attribution study released June 9, 2016, found that such extreme rains are at least 40 percent—and as much as 90 percent—more likely in some areas of France.

Cyclone extremes

“Cyclones, in part, draw their energy from the temperature of the ocean’s surface waters, so a warming climate and ocean puts more energy into storms, including cyclones, loading them with more rainfall, and stronger winds pushing more of a storm surge.” –Climate Code Red (Continue: Climate Code Red: Climate change pushing floods, cyclones to new extremes, with worse to come.)