by John Lawrence
USA Today did a report: Nowhere to hide from extreme weather. As it turns out, the US is uniquely positioned for extreme weather whether it's hurricanes in the southeast, tornadoes in the lower plains, noreasters along the eastern seaboard, wildfires in the west, earthquakes, volcanoes and possible tsunamis along the west coast.
And then there are sinkholes in Florida, avalanches in the Rockies and flash floods in the Appalachians. Hail, ice storms and lake-effect snowstorms far from the Great Lakes round out the list. No matter where you go, you will meet extreme weather. Especially now that storms are almost continent wide. Each storm in February affected about 150 million people, half the population of the US.
The last day of February saw the rains descend on California. Over 14" of rain fell in the San Bernardino Mountains north of Los Angeles and even 4.52" fell in downtown L.A.: more rainfall in three days than had accumulated in the 14 months preceding the storm, and changing their water season precipitation deficit from 11% of normal last week to 50% now! In San Diego the system produced almost 9'' of rain on Palomar Mountain, more than 5'' in Julian, almost 4'' in Valley Center, and almost 2'' at San Diego's Lindbergh Field.
However, most of the extreme weather affected every other part of the country except San Diego. Around 100,000 flights have been cancelled so far this winter. More flights have been grounded this winter than at any time since 1987 when the Department of Transportation first started collecting data. In addition to the cancellations 290,000 have been delayed.
Making things worse, airlines have been cutting unprofitable flights and packing more passengers into planes. That's been great for their bottom line but has created a nightmare for passengers whose flights are canceled due to a storm. Other planes are too full to easily accommodate the stranded travelers. Many must wait days to secure a seat on another flight. The good news is that airlines are canceling more flights well in advance before passengers even leave for the airport. This means that fewer people are stranded at the airport and, God forbid, on the tarmac.
American Airlines has a computer algorithm called the "Cancellator" which automatically cancels flights, and it's not always strictly on account of the weather. Sometimes it's because aircraft and/or flight crews aren't in the right place at the right time. Airlines also scrap and reschedule flights based on profitability and even how many top-tier frequent fliers are aboard.
Across the pond, flooding in the UK has been the worst ever. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the recent flooding in southern England as “biblical” following the wettest December-January period on record. The Thames River has been flowing at its highest level for longer than any period since 1883 according to news sources. Princes William and Harry are even delivering sandbags!
This is from the Guardian:
The devastating floods and storms sweeping Britain are clear indications of the dangers of climate change, according to Lord Stern, the author of a 2006 report on the economics of climate change.
Writing in the Guardian, the crossbench peer said the flooding and storm damage demonstrate the need for Britain and the rest of the world to continue to implement low-carbon policies to reduce the probability of greater tragedies in the future.
He said the five wettest years and the seven warmest years in the UK have happened since 2000, which is explained by a clear body of evidence showing that a warmer atmosphere contains more water and causes more intense rainfall. When this is combined with higher sea levels in the English Channel, the risk of flooding increases.
Extreme weather has cost the US a bundle: $1.15 trillion in the last 30 years, a trend that is likely to continue without better preparation at the state and local levels, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assistant secretary for policy David Heyman said. In 2011, 14 different natural catastrophes exceeded a billion dollars each and there were 98 presidentially declared disasters, a record number. “Without a concerted effort - [a] national resilience effort, the trend is likely to continue,” Heyman warned.
In an article by Rebecca Kaplan, Extreme weather in U.S. comes with a high price tag she says:
Heyman and his colleague, Caitlin Durkovich, who serves as the assistant secretary for infrastructure protection, national protection and programs directorate at DHS detailed the importance of implementing a national preparedness system as a way to better prepare for disasters. They are creating a program called Resilience STAR that will mimic the Energy STAR program by setting voluntary standards for building and preparedness that will help communities respond to disasters more quickly, especially if those standards are implemented in critical infrastructure instead of just homes and other facilities.
Meanwhile, there have been heat waves in Slovenia and Australia, snow in Vietnam and the return of the polar vortex to North America. Britain has had its wettest winter in 250 years but temperatures in parts of Russia and the Arctic have been 50 degrees Fahrenheidt above normal. The southern hemisphere has had the warmest start to a year ever recorded, with millions of people sweltering in Brazilian and southern African cities.
Almost 1000 tennis fans were treated for heat exhaustion at the Australian Open as soaring temperatures forced the suspension of nearly all matches on day four. The temperature was 110 degrees Fahrenheit. At about the same time, a rare snowfall blanketed Arizona with several inches of snow, leading the Professional Golfers' Association to cancel play at a tournament near Tucson.