Falling Rain, Rising Waters: Central Europe Gasping

Unaccountably, US papers have carried little front-page news about the disaster drenching Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and other areas of Central Europe.  And when news is carried it is difficult to find mention of how extreme this weather has been, how recent the former extreme weather has been (2002) or why this might be happening.  So here’s a catch-up from Climate Progress.

The statue of Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, before it was submerged under the rising water from the Vltava river on Kampa Island in Prague, Czech Republic [Photograph: Vova Pomortzeff/Demotix/Corbis]

The statue of Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, before it was submerged under the rising water from the Vltava river on Kampa Island in Prague, Czech Republic [Photograph: Vova Pomortzeff/Demotix/Corbis]

Widespread flooding throughout Central Europe has forced thousands from their homes and killed at least eleven people, with several others missing. The heavy rainexpected to continue through Tuesday.

In the Czech Republic, a nationwide state of emergency is in effect and more than 3,000 people have been evacuated across the western part of the country. As the BBCreports, as of Monday morning, the River Vlatava (seen above, via AP) was flowing at 2,800 cubic meters per second — 10 times its normal volume — and is expected to rise again on Tuesday.

the Danube river rose above 12.2 meters on Monday, the highest level ever recorded.

 Germany’s National Meteorological Service estimates that 178 percent more rain fell in May than in the previous year. In Austria, the meteorological service said two months of rain had fallen in just two days. Britain suffered the rainiest spring on record. And in Italy, it was the wettest spring in 150 years and coldest in 20.

study released earlier this year by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association confirmed what scientists have long been saying about the role of climate change in driving extreme precipitation. The study found that extreme precipitation events will become more frequent this century as climate change continues to warm the planet, predicting 20-30 percent more precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere by 2099.

And increasingly, scientists are connecting record Arctic sea ice loss to an increase in extreme weather due to the weakened jet stream. As NOAA explained in a 2012 news release, “… with more solar energy going into the Arctic Ocean because of lost ice, there is reason to expect more extreme weather events, such as heavy snowfall, heat waves, and flooding in North America and Europe.”

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Or if this is too wet, you could read about the historic drought in New Mexico, causing major wild fires….

Food, Floods and Drought

Krugman looks at Egypt, food prices and the fast changing world climate:

We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but they’re having a brutal impact on the world’s poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs…

While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.

The question then becomes, what’s behind all this extreme weather?

To some extent we’re seeing the results of a natural phenomenon, La Niña — a periodic event in which water in the equatorial Pacific becomes cooler than normal. And La Niña events have historically been associated with global food crises, including the crisis of 2007-8.

But that’s not the whole story. Don’t let the snow fool you: globally, 2010 was tied with 2005 for warmest year on record, even though we were at a solar minimum and La Niña was a cooling factor in the second half of the year. Temperature records were set not just in Russia but in no fewer than 19 countries, covering a fifth of the world’s land area. And both droughts and floods are natural consequences of a warming world: droughts because it’s hotter, floods because warm oceans release more water vapor.

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More Rain Records

From Wunderground…

Tropical Storm Matthew continues to dump heavy rains over Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and neighboring regions of Mexico today. Puerto Barrios, in northern Guatemala, has received 4.57″ of rain in the past 24 hours. With Matthew expected to slow down and dissipate by Sunday, the storm’s heavy rains of 6 – 15 inches can be expected to cause severe flooding and dangerous mudslides. The rains are of particular concern for Guatemala, which suffered its rainiest August in its history…

Rain Saturates Southern Brazil

Landslides and floods caused by heavy rain have killed at least 59 people and forced more than 43,000 from their homes in southern Brazil.