Floods of biblical proportion?
The climate skeptics are still bold, and they have some good points — we haven’t seen steady increases in air temperatures for a while; it’s been flat for nearly 15 years. And we haven’t seen the water vapor hot spots we might expect from steady warming either.
But the climate is a complex system, and there is much we still don’t understand. “Global warming” might not mean just a steady increase in temperatures; warming also equals more energy in the climate system, and some of that energy may be going into other things than simply warming up the atmosphere’s average temperature.
Clearly some is going into melting the Artic ice pack; it continues to shrink at such a rate that summer ice is expected to disappear entirely sometime between 2020 and 2040. And more of the atmosphere’s energy seems to be going into increasing the frequency and intensity of storms.
American readers will know of the catastrophic flooding in the Colorado Rockies this past week. You may not be aware that Colorado was not an isolated crisis. When I asked my colleagues in Russia if they had heard about the severe floods, they said oh yes, a terrible tragedy — but they were referring to the floods in Eastern Russia this week, which were the worst in a over 120 years: over 100,000 people evacuated and $1 billion in damage. There was also massive flooding in Mexico, which oddly was hit by TWO major storms, Hurricane Manuel from the Pacific and Hurricane Ingrid from the Atlantic, that crossed over the country at the same time. At least 80 are dead, tens of thousands are stranded, and a crocodile was seen swimming in the flooded streets of Acapulco. And this weekend, Hong Kong is bracing for the impact of Typhoon Usagi:
“China’s National Meteorological Center issued a red alert — the highest-level warning — with the storm, called Super Typhoon Usagi, on a path to hit Guangdong Province, the industrial powerhouse at the heart of the Pearl River Delta. Coastal Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces were also covered by the alert.
The storm, with a width of nearly 700 miles and carrying sustained winds of 139 miles per hour, battered the northern Philippine island of Luzon on one side while striking Taiwan on the other, moving between the two on a path straight toward Hong Kong at the foot of the delta. It was expected to make landfall in the financial hub on Sunday night, although forecasters said it could veer from that course.” New York Times, Sep. 22.
Maybe all this global warming stuff is hooey, or maybe the planet is just going through a restless phase and we are not responsible. Still, whatever the reason, if I ran a big insurance or reinsurance company, I would be pretty glum these days…