Saturday, August 4, 2012

Storm Energy Rises

If you have noticed that storms are more intense and more frequent in recent years, a July 2012 report from the Environment America Research and Policy Institute supports your observation.

The report analyzed 60 years of precipitation data dating back to 1948. Extreme downpours are up 30% in the US.

Analysis of nationwide data compiled by the National Climatic Data Center reveal that:
  • Heavy downpours that used to occur once every 12 months, now occur every 9 months on average; and
  • The largest yearly storms produce 10% more precipitation than they did 65 years ago.

Changes in Downpour Frequency from When it Rains it Pours.
He turned to look just in time to see the rain start falling out as if the storm had finally decided to weep with shame for what it had done to them.
― James Dashner, The Scorch Trials
The report notes that an increase in the number of downpours does not necessarily mean that more water will be available. Climatologists project that the pattern of extreme downpours after longer periods of relative dryness will continue. That is, periods of sparse precipitation will continue to be punctuated by heavy storms.
Gonna be a real frog-strangling turd-floater.
― Charles Martin, Chasing Fireflies

Temperature Effects

Rising land and ocean temperatures serve to increase the intensity of storms in two fundamental ways:
  1. Warmer land and ocean temperatures cause water to evaporate faster; and
  2. Warmer air temperatures allow the atmosphere to hold more water vapor. 
Today's clouds are richer with moisture so that heavy downpours, or snowstorms, are more likely to occur (cf. Rain from Clouds).
Genius is present in every age, but the men carrying it within them remain benumbed unless extraordinary events occur to heat up and melt the mass so that it flows forth.
Denis Diderot (1713-1784)