MONSOONS – HURRICANES – CYCLONES
PREAMBLE In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, Hurricanes hardly ever happen. (Pygmalion)
Perhaps not any more – this was the prevailing belief in 1913 when Mother Earth was not given to tantrums. One hundred years later, Ghia, that ocean in the sky, and Posieden have decided to give Homo sapiens stultus a very stern warning which should be well heeded by those of our species on the north-east coastal regions of Australia. Two August weather disasters and four other major weather events are currently occurring round the globe. The root cause of these problems is the warming of the oceans due to the blanketing affect of greenhouse gas. These events have morphed into catastrophes. Hurricane Irma, roaring out of the Atlantic, is about to add to the woes of the southern United States. In early September, three hurricanes are now high-tailing across the Atlantic Ocean through the Carribean islands towards southern United States. The two disasterous weather events are the monsoon in the north-east of the Indian sub-continent and hurricane Harvey that has devastated the Houston region adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico.. The strange situation is that we have heard loud and clear that ‘Houston has a problem’ but very little about the far more terrible event on the Indian sub-continent.
THE INDIAN MONSOON North-west India, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, covering an area of 720,000 sq. km. (NSW 809,000 sq. km.), has been devastated. An arc of the sub-continent some 1800 km in length has been flooded and rendered virtually uninhabitable. The monsoon has affected more than 50 million people, deaths exceed 2000, more than 90,000 homes have been destroyed in Nepal and tens of thousands are affected by cholera and other water-born diseases. About 50% of Uttar Pradesh and 40% of Bangladesh (44,000 sq. km.) are flooded. Onto this devastated country have been forced around 270,000 Rohingya refugees while Myanmar maintains its genocide of this Muslim group. The monsoon originated in the warmed waters of the Bay of Bengal. Simultaneously the Mumbai region has been devastated by floods caused by 468 mm of rain in twelve hours which originated from the warmed waters of the Arabian Sea. This has been the heaviest rainfall event in over twenty years.
HURRICANE HARVEY By contrast, hurricane Harvey originated in the warmed waters of the Gulf of Mexico and exploded onto the Houston region where it dumped 127 mm of rain. Comparative rainfall figures with the disastrous Hurricane Katrina (2006) are instructive; Katrina only unleashed 30 trillion litres while Harvey dumped 121 trillion litres on the regional swamp land. The hurricane flooded about 30,000 sq km along 800 km of country. It has significantly been classified as ‘one in a thousand year flood’. 30,000 to 40,000 homes have been destroyed and around 50,000 people are in shelters. (CNN, VOX, 3 September) In terms of comparative numbers, hurricane Harvey barely rates when compared to the social and material devastation generated by the Indian monsoon. The economic significance of hurricane Harvey is that it has shut down roughly 11% of US refining capacity and 25% of US oil production which will put temporary upward pressure on global energy prices. These economic ramifications for the fragile Saudi economy and the stressed Russian economy are important and could lead to unwanted assertiveness. (Geopolitical Futures 30 August)
ATLANTIC HURRICANES In early September, three hurricanes, Katia, Jose and Irma, gestated in the North Atlantic equatorial waters. Hurricane Irma (Category 5) has already established records as the most powerful storm ever recorded with wind speeds around 300 km/hr and it is now causing devastation in Florida. It is also an unusual omen that it has roared out of the Atlantic, not the Gulf of Mexico. This is troubling since it suggests the ocean waters are heating up as fast as the shallow gulf waters. Carribean islands, over a path 200 km wide, have been devasted. The significance of Irma, Jose and Katia are their frequency and intensity so soon after hurricane Harvey. This fact has serious implications for north-eastern Australia’s coastal communities and infrastructure. (VOX 7 September)
CHINA Two typhoons have have hit the Chinese mainland contemporaneously with the weather events in the north-eastern Indian region and the southern United States. Hong Kong has been lashed by typhoon Hato and Macau by typhoon Pakar. The significance for all these events is they are occurring at the end of a warming northern hemisphere summer.
CLIMATE SCIENCE The message coming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is that hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons will increase in intensity and frequency because ocean waters are rising above historic averages due to atmospheric green house gases blanketing the planet and thus not permitting heat loss from the oceans. A feature of recent events is for the low preasure systems to remain stationary rather than moving inland and becoming rain depressions, which means flooding will become more catastrophic. (The Atlantic Magasine – Science)
It is concerning to note that even if carbon dioxide input into the atmosphere ceased today, upward trends would continue for over one hundred years. “After stabilisation of the carbon dioxide and other green house gases, surface air temperature will rise by a few tenths of a degree per century for a century or more. Sea level will rise over many centuries – it has already risen 20cm since the early 1900s due to volume increase from warming and contribution from Antarctic and Greenland ice melt. The slow transfer of heat to the ocean will continue over generations before stabilisation will commence.” (Climate Change, Synthesis Report, International Panel on Climate Change, 2001)
CYCLONE DEBBIE – A PORTENT What has all this to do with cyclone Debbie in March 2017? A great deal, in fact; in the long run, the social and economic viability of coastal Australia will be seriously affected by summer cyclone activity. Cyclone Debbie, at the end of the 2017 southern summer, has been branded as the deadliest event since cyclone Tracy in 1974, 43 years ago. Significantly, as with the preceding weather events overseas, cyclone Debbie has been described as unusually ferocious and was associated with heavier than usual rainfall. It cut a swathe of destruction over an area approximating to 450,000 sq km (1400 x 300 km). Rainfall records for north-eastern New South Wales were broken – 900 mm. in 48 hours was unprecedented. (The Conversation, Huffington Post, 31 March} Psychologists have warned on the emotional impact among the affected population: people have been identified who have had to rebuild homes or business at least twice in the last few years due to cyclone activity. In the Tweed Heads-Lismore region, more than 11,000 have been made homeless, thousands of homes have been destroyed and there have been several deaths. Twenty-two Queensland coal mines curtailed production involving a $1.5 billion loss. The national economic impact is estimated to exceed $2 billion and will be a drag on first-half economic growth; it will add to inflation. (Daily Telegraph, The Australian, 3 April)
This is not intended as a rehash of destruction: this is a warning that. on current trends, future cyclones will become more destructive.
POSTAMBLE This offering highlights the relevance of current trends and weather disasters to the social stability and economic viability of the north-eastern Australian region. Proof, not anecdotal evidence, confirms storms, globally, are becoming more violent and destructive. Hurricane Harvey, the Indian monsoon, hurricane Irma and cyclone Debbie have all been described as the worst events in decades. All have occurred at the end of a long hot summer. Mention has been made several times of one in one hundred year events during this period but hurricane Harvey has been classified as one in a thousand year event. ((Washington Post) What is significant is not the raw numbers but the trends. At these intensities and frequencies this global situation is becoming an enervating battle between an enraged Ghia and Homo sapiens stultus. For Australian planners, the nation’s principal exports of coal in the east and iron-ore and gas in the west will face increasing production delays. It is not rational to expect that Australia can avoid increasingly destructive cyclones. The only practical precaution will be meticulous disaster planning and ensuring the Bureau of Meteorology is sufficiently resourced to provide accurate cyclone warning.
With a final look at the warming oceans, it should be noted that the North Atlantic is cooling due to ice-melt from Greenland – a very bad sign. The Govenor of Florida has requested his citizens not to fire their weapons at cyclone Irma as it will not reduce her vitality – Homo sapiens stultus!
John Hill Current Affairs Flash Points towawdsthefinalhour.com firstname.lastname@example.org
READER COMMENT 1 I remain unconvinced and am disappointed to see you confuse weather and climate. I dispute the contention that storms and floods of this magnetude have never happened before and that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming. The events you refer to are not unique whenever planet Earth was warm enough and had an atmosphere and oceans.. Yes, the effects have been devastating but this is the result of increased populations in vunerable locations and continuing failure (or ability) of Governments or Communities to undertake serious mitigation. I do not regard CNN, Washington Post or IPCC as anything but fake news. I will stick with Benny Peiser, Joane Nova, Jenifer Marohasy and Geof Derrick. You are welcome to attach yourself to Al Gore, Tim Flannery, John Cook, Will Stephan, the Labor Party, Malcolm Turnbull and other Green and Lefty frauds perpetrating the huge, costly and destructive scam on a gullible public.
2 It always amuses me how often we have once in a hundred years’ events. Personnally without wanting to appear too gloomy I think we are only seeing the beginning of the effects of global warming. Even if efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are implemented – by no means certain – it could be all to late.
3 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated recently – current data bases indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century. The trend in numbers of major hurricanes making United States landfall has been slightly downward over the past century. The catagory 5/4 hurricanes Harvey and Irma have ended an unprecedented 12 year hurricane drought.