April 2011: Extreme Weather Events

In the spring and early summer of 1998 I researched various sources to write a paper titled  The Need for Action to Confront Potential Consequences of Global Climate Change on a Regional Basis, to set the topics of discussion for one of the regional conferences taking place nationally as part of a National Assessment of Consequences of Global Climate Change in the United States [ or just National Assessment or NA for short] mandated by the U.S. Congress. The specific region for this conference included the U.S. South Atlantic coastal regions of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In writing this paper and conducting my research I was striken by the complexity and interaction of natural processes governing the behavior of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system, and the byproducts that become hazards with the potential for causing damage to life, all aspects of human activity and the environment in their paths.

Also significant to me was the realization that: (a) Our Earth’s climate is driven or affected by so many factors acting on time scales that vary from hours or days to millennia, and which in many cases conform to repetitive cycles; (b) While climate may be changing so slowly, almost imperceptebly, in response to a natural cycle lasting thousands of years such as changes in the orbital mechanics of Earth around the Sun and the galactic center, it also has the capacity for being puntuacted by localized extremes such as temperature or atmospheric pressure that lead to weather events that last from hours to days; (c) This contrast between extremely slow change and the turmoil of hourly or daily events requires Nature to constantly activate other components of the ocean-atmosphere complex seeking to restore equilibrium; (d) There is an inherent fragility in this struggle between extremes as climate is actually happening in that thin wispy vail of gases, the atmosphere, surrounding Earth where less than 3/100 of 1% of the component gases contribute to the conditions allowing multicellular – human – life to exist. It is simple to deduct how even minor changes may alter the equilibrium that Nature tries so hard to maintain, leading to potentially dire consequences and change perhaps even for life as we know it.

These findings influenced me not only in my writing of the white paper for the conference, but in naming the upcoming event the Climate Change and Extreme Events Workshop”. In retrospect, since this took place in 1998, I have to say the extreme event characterization was right on target as numerous weather events over the past 13 years have reinforced my ideas and findings expressed in the white paper mentioned above [which you can view by clicking here WHITEPAPERDraft1].

The above thoughts and reference serve as preamble to comments and illustrations I want to share relative to extreme weather events taking place in the United States over just a few passing days this April of 2011. You will find my comments on a brief paper under the title April 2011: Extreme Weather Events, which you can read by clicking of the following link:  April2011ExtremeWeatherEvents