April has already broken records for severe storms and tornados in the US Midwest and Southeast, with over 600 reported twisters, 164 today alone; above, the one that wrecked Tuscaloosa earlier tonight, April 27. America's second largest nuclear power plant, the Browns Ferry plant, was closed indefinitely by the TVA after three of its reactors lost power and went into emergency shut-down. (ref)
"Today's series of storms caused major damage to the TVA power system. We have never experienced such a major weather event in our history."- Rich Sobolewski, TVA. April 28:
April 2011 has now set the record for the most tornadoes in any month, ever, at 800 plus.
Death toll as of April 29: 329 and counting.
Dec 2010 Update
From left: LA storms, Heathrow cleanup, Australia summer snow, Ohio iced lighthouse, Indonesia hailstorm. (click to enlarge)
Lucky I suppose, that COP16 was not also held in Northern Europe, now in the grip of another arctic cold and snow onslaught similar to the one last year that sent heads of state scurrying home as COP15 collapsed. Going back to the previous most severe, the winter of 2005-2006, we notice that these follow record warm years (in the summer of 2005 30,000 people died in Europe as a result of the heat). Hot years come with severe winters it seems, at least for Northern Europe, Northern Eurasia, and to some extent Northeast America. So what's going on? In Europe this winter there's talk of oil from the BP spill having gotten into the Gulf Stream and somehow depressing the Atlantic Conveyor. But as we noted, the pattern was already in place in 2005-2006, and again in 2009-2010, before the BP spill.
Is arctic warming changing winter atmospheric patterns over Europe and Asia?
An analysis done in Nov 2009 and just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research reports a causative link between shrinking sea-ice coverage in the Northern Oceans and a "large-scale atmospheric circulation realignment"
causing extreme cold and severe storms in Northern Europe and North Asia.
"Recent severe winters like last year's or the one of 2005-2006 do not conflict with the global warming picture, but rather supplement it," explained Vladimir Petoukhov, lead author of the study and a physicist at the Potsdam Institute. (ref)
Dec 22. Several weeks of freak snowfall leading up to the holidays has left European airports in chaos; the worst hit were the two largest, Heathrow and Frankfurt. The European Commission has called a meeting of airport officials to find new ways of coping with the kind of weather extremes seen this month. Today, Christmas eve, Heathrow, Gatwick and Geneva airports were closed again, and a terminal at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport was evacuated due to fears the roof would collapse under the load of snow.
One might wonder how far this "large-scale atmospheric circulation realignment" extends, given that it's been snowing in New South Wales, Australia this week, which being squarely in the southern hemisphere, is normally experiencing summer temperatures in the high eighties around Christmas time.
And a hail storm damaged roofs and cars in Denpasar, capital of equatorial Bali.
Jan 16, 2011: ARkStorm Scenario That's AR as in 'atmospheric river'. . .
"For emergency planning purposes, scientists unveiled a hypothetical California scenario that describes a storm that could produce up to 10 feet of rain, cause extensive flooding (in many cases overwhelming the states flood-protection system) and result in more than $300 billion in damage." (story)(podcast mp3)
Extreme Siberian Cold Descends on the Northern Hemisphere: Winter 2009-2010
"The city of Copenhagen is a climate crime scene tonight, with the guilty men and women fleeing to the airport in shame. .." Greenpeace famously blogged. But actually , world leaders were fleeing for the airports ahead of snowstorms on both sides of the north atlantic at once; Obama arrived in DC as the blizzard began there, in Europe a record cold wave accompanied the snow, at one point all the airports were down and 5 Eurostar trains were stuck in the Chunnel. Waves of record cold and snow are hitting China too, with temperatures hitting the minus twenties fahrenheit.
Updates Severe Weather 2/06/10: Feb 5:Monster Snowstorm Hits East Coast Life in the nation's capital ground to a halt Friday as steady snow fell, the beginning of a storm that forecasters said could be the biggest for the city in modern history. A record 2 1/2 feet or more was predicted for Washington.
(story) Feb 5:Powerful Cyclone Strikes Tahiti with winds up to 250 km/hr and swells of 28 feet.
(story) January 31:Food Warnings Amid China Freeze China is struggling to cope with its worst snowfall in decades, with officials warning of future food shortages as winter crops are wrecked.
Dozens are thought to have died as much of the country endures one of its harshest winters for half a century. 100,000 buildings have collapsed due to heavy snowfalls.
(story) January 26:Cold weather claims more lives in Europe. . . death toll since November rises to 212. . . Cold plunge to minus 27 Fahrenheit . .. temperatures in January had not risen above zero anywhere in the European part of Russia.
January 21:Storm battering California sets record low pressure mark One of the most powerful low pressure systems since record keeping began in the 1800s slammed the West Coast yesterday with hurricane-force wind gusts, large hail, and torrential rains that have created flash floods and dangerous debris flows.
(story) January 10:China Shipping Port Frozen Over A northern China port that is one of the world's largest was facing the worst ice conditions in 30 years on Saturday, and ice-breaking ships were working to keep the path to it open.
Scientists note an "off-the-chart" cold pressure pattern across the arctic- marking an "extraordinary negative plunge of the [Arctic Oscillation] index in December, taking it below any such reading since at least 1950. . . " NYT 1/4/10 Cold Arctic Pressure Pattern Nearly Off Chart
The head of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, Guo Hu told Beijing News:
''In the context of global warming, extreme atmospheric flows are causing extreme climate incidents to appear more frequently, such as the summer's rain storms and last year's ice-storm disaster in southern China."
China blames freak storm on global warming
Global Warming and Climate Chaos: The Westminster Briefing (2008)
March 15, 2008. A tornado ripped downtown Atlanta last night, tearing part of the roof off the Georgia Dome during the Southeastern Conference men's basketball playoffs; people in the CNN Building reported computers sucked out the windows.
Following one of the the hottest years of the last century, this winter has seen extremely severe storms, record cold, and record snowfalls from China to Wisconsin; global-warming skeptics are all abuzz. But the danger we face from our modifications to the atmosphere is not a gradual increase in temperature, but climate chaos. Record cold spells and snowfall, to the extent they represent something more than transient weather extremes, may be a sign of growing instability, rather than counter-indications of a simplistic linear warming. The injection of enormous amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere will not necessarily take us on a glide path to a warmer world. It will inevitably destabilize the delicate but enduring climate patterns in which humans have evolved, adapted, and developed. That means potentially wild swings of weather until a new stability is reached (and that may not be one to our liking). In the meantime, (and until long after we stop discharging CO2), we may see unpredictable and savage weather extremes more and more frequently as the interacting feedbacks which have stabilized the climate in the past are thrown out of kilter. This perspective has increasingly alarmed climate scientists in the last year leading up to the Bali Conference in December.
The Westminster Briefing was commissioned by the British 'All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group' in advance of the recent Bali Conference to "provide the best available scientific update for those currently involved in policy formulation".
The update was considered important because it dealt with the newly emerging issue of of feedback systems and the possibility of a "tipping point" in the earth system, beyond which lies 'unstoppable climate change'.
From the documentation:
"This leading edge scientific update was delivered to a packed audience in the House of Commons in June 2007. It is now released in the approach to the Bali Meeting of the UNFCCC because it presents material not yet addressed by the IPCC, but which is absolutely critical to the decision-making process at and beyond that event.
"Over the last two years there has been a profound shift in the scientific understanding of the behaviour of the earth's climate system. Although some specific feedback mechanisms were included in the more advanced climate models, the analysis of climate dynamics as a whole has proceeded far beyond that portrayed in the latest IPCC Assessment Report. It was not taken into consideration in the Stern Report, in the formulation of the Climate Bill currently before the UK Parliament, or in the process of target-setting of the present round of International negotiations.
"Almost all of the systems known to affect climate change are now in a state of net positive (amplifying) feedback. Each feedback mechanism accelerates its own specific process. The output of each feedback is an input to all other feedbacks, so the system as a whole constitutes an interactive set of mutually reinforcing sub-systems.
"This "second order" feedback system accelerates the rate of climate change and faces us with the possibility of a "tipping point" in the whole earth system. If we go beyond the point where human intervention can no longer stabilise the system, then we precipitate unstoppable runaway climate change.
"The implication is that climate change is non-linear. Once set in motion it is acceleratingly self-perpetuating. There is then only a small time-window within which human intervention has any (rapidly diminishing) chance of halting the process and returning the system to a stable state. Failure to act effectively within that window of opportunity would inevitably precipitate cataclysmic change on a par with the five mass extinction events known to have obliterated almost all life on earth.
"Strategically we have to generate a negative feedback intervention of sufficient power to overcome the now active positive feedback process. We then have to maintain its effectiveness during the remaining period of rising temperature, while temperature-driven positive feedbacks continue to operate. That is an extraordinarily difficult task, out of all comparison with strategies currently in place.
"Feedback Dynamics and the Acceleration of Climate Change" provides an essential briefing for every person and organisation involved in the UNFCCC Meeting in Bali. Beyond that it lays the foundation for all future strategic engagement with the imperative task of climate stabilisation."
Update, 4/23/09: World Climate Panel to Report on Extreme Events, Disasters [The] IPCC ... found that climate change was being manifested in the nature of changed frequency, intensity and length of many extreme events, such as floods, droughts, storms and extreme temperatures... This special report will generate knowledge on these extreme events and their characteristics, whereby the global community can prepare more effectively for adapting to future risks posed by the hazards that these occurrences will present," said IPCC's Dr. Rajendra Pachauri.