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The New Normal: Extreme Climate is Already Happening

Sep 12, 2017

An aerial view shows extensive flooding from Harvey in a residential area in Southeast Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel J. Martinez

For many days in recent weeks, it wasn’t possible to see across the San Francisco Bay because smoke from wildfires across Northern California and Oregon made the air as smoggy and toxic as some of the worst days of lung choking smog alerts in Los Angeles before pollution controls.

In the last month, all time heat records have been falling all along the west coast of North America, from Vancouver to Los Angeles. On Sept. 1st, San Francisco hit 106 degrees, its highest temperature since record keeping began in the 1800’s.  This summer, over-heated British Columbia had more than 1000 wildfires that burned 2.3 million acres, the worst fire season in its history.

Golfers play through as the Eagle Creek fire rages nearby in Oregon

Los Angeles had its largest wildfire ever.  Toxic smoke from fires across the western states intermittently blanketed millions of people and thousands of miles along the west coast, drifting inland as far as Michigan and Ontario. Since last winter, the surface water of the Gulf of Mexico has been the warmest in history, presaging the potentially dangerous hurricane season we’re seeing now.  Hurricane Harvey was the greatest rainfall event ever measured in the United States, dumping an estimated 27 trillion gallons of water on Texas and Louisiana, compared to Hurricane Katrina’s total 6.5 trillion gallons.  And, just as Irma caused nearly 7 million to evacuate in Florida, it was estimated that, in Bangladesh, over 1200 have died in flooding so far, and over 40 million people have been impacted as a third of the country was underwater in a historically severe monsoon.  The list of recent extreme and record-breaking climate events goes on.

From Bill McKibben’s article in the Guardian:


“In Houston they got down to the hard and unromantic work of recovery from what economists announced was probably the most expensive storm in US history, and which weather analysts confirmed was certainly the greatest rainfall event ever measured in the country – across much of its spread it was a once-in-25,000-years storm, meaning 12 times past the birth of Christ; in isolated spots it was a once-in-500,000-years storm, which means back when we lived in trees…

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are the equivalent of one of those transient ischaemic attacks – yeah, your face is drooping oddly on the left, but you can continue. Maybe. If you start taking your pills, eating right, exercising, getting your act together.

That’s the stage we’re at now – not the warning on the side of the pack, but the hacking cough that brings up blood. But what happens if you keep smoking? You get worse, till past a certain point you’re not continuing. We’ve increased the temperature of the Earth a little more than 1C so far, which has been enough extra heat to account for the horrors we’re currently witnessing. And with the momentum built into the system, we’re going to go somewhere near 2C, no matter what we do. That will be considerably worse than where we are now, but maybe it will be expensively endurable.

The problem is, our current business-as-usual trajectory takes us to a world that’s about 3.5C warmer.”

See Bill McKibben’s full article HERE.

 Hurricane Irma’s path of destruction – video report