Drought And Deluge Many Examples

The summer of 2002 featured a number of climatic extremes, as excessive rain deluged Europe and Asia, swamping cities and villages and killing at least 2,000 people, while drought and heat scorched cities in the Western and Eastern United States. Climate contrarians argued that weather is always variable, but other observers noted that extremes seemed to be more frequent than before (Revkin, 2002, A-10). Also during the summer of 2002, near the Black Sea, a large tornado and heavy rains left at least 37 people dead and hundreds of vacationers stranded. During the same week, in China's southern province of Hunan, 70 people died after rains caused landslides and floods. South Korea mobilized thousands of troops after a week that saw two-fifths of the average annual total rainfall (Townsend, 2002, 15). During the week of May 3-10, 2003, 562 tornadoes were reported in the United States, the largest weekly total since records began in the 1950s; this record was then surpassed in August 2004.

After one of its driest summers on record, Seattle recorded its wettest month on record (with 15.63 inches of rain at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) in November 2006. After an El Nino set in at Christmas of the same year, the weather in Seattle again became unusually dry. Omaha experienced its second wettest May on record in 2007 (with 10.4 inches of rain), followed by its driest June (with a quarter of an inch of rain). Even months not usually noted for tornado activity seemed to be getting more of it; September 2004, for example, also set a record for tornado sightings in the United States. During the third week of October 2007, an F-3 tornado ripped through Michigan, near Lansing, killing three people, a very unusual storm, for that time of year.

Examples abound of increasing extremes in precipitation. November

2002, December 2002, and January 2003 were Minneapolis-St. Paul's driest in recorded history. These followed the wettest June through October there in more than 100 years. In December 2002, Omaha recorded its first month on record with no measurable precipitation. In March

2003, having endured its driest year in recorded history during 2002, Denver, Colorado recorded 30 inches of snow in one storm. Snowfall on the drought-parched Front Range totaled as much as eight feet in the same storm. Fifteen months later, Denver's weather let loose again; on June 9, 2004, suburbs north and west of the city received as much as 3 feet of hail. Residents used shovels to free their cars. The summer of 2003 was unusually dry in the Pacific Northwest; during the third week in October, however, Seattle recorded its wettest day on record, with 5.02 inches of rain. The night of July 27, 2004, Dallas, Texas, recorded a foot of rain and widespread flooding—as the U.S. West continued to endure its worst multiyear drought in at least 500 years.

At times, the swift passage from drought to deluge can mimic Robert Frost's legendary duality of fire and ice. In November 2003, for example, the Los Angeles area was scorched by its worst wildfires on record until that time (2007 was worse), driven by hot, desiccating Santa Ana winds that pushed temperatures to near 100°F. Less than two weeks later, parts of the Los Angeles Basin were pounded by a foot of pearl-sized hail.

By 2007, Los Angeles was beset by its worst drought on record. The same month, drought-enhancing Santa Ana winds as strong as 100 miles an hour drove wildfires that expelled hundreds of thousands of people from their homes between San Diego and Malibu, California, during one of the area's worst droughts on record. The Southeastern United States also was suffering its worst drought on record at the same time.

The drought in the U.S. West was occasionally punctuated by localized deluges. On July 6, 2002, near Ogallala, Nebraska, as much as 10 inches of rain cascaded onto an area that was being plagued by extreme drought, running off the hardened soil, washing out sections of Interstate 80, killing a truck driver, and provoking evacuation of residents. Both approaches of a bridge over the South Platte River were washed out. "People I've talked to have never seen anything like this," said Leonard Johnson, Mayor of Ogalalla (Olson, 2002, A-1). The rainfall in that one storm was two to three times the amount that had previously fallen in the area during the entire year of 2002. Nearly a year later, on the night of June 22, 2003, a stagnant supercell dumped 12 to 15 inches of rain (half the area's annual average) south and east of Grand Island, Nebraska, an area that was also suffering intense drought at the time. The same storm spawned several tornadoes, killing one person and injuring several others. This storm, which destroyed large parts of Aurora, Nebraska, produced hail that was among the largest ever reported in the United States, as well as a tornado that stood virtually in one place for half an hour, devastating the town of Deshler.

The island of Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti) was seared by drought in 2003 and then drowned in floods that killed at least 2,000 people in May 2004. By the summer and early fall of 2004, the U.S. East Coast, which had experienced intense drought three years earlier, was drowning in record rainfall, part of which arrived courtesy the remains of four hurricanes that had devastated Florida.

Similar reports of an intensifying hydrological cycle have been plentiful outside the United States. India, with its annual monsoon dry season that usually alternates with heavy rains, has adapted to a drought-deluge cycle. About 90 per cent of India's precipitation falls between June and September during an average year, so heavy rain in Mumbai in late July is hardly unusual. On July 26 and 27, 2005, however, 37.1 inches of rain fell in Mumbai during 24 hours, the heaviest on record for an Indian city (and probably any city in the world) during one day and night. The deluge contributed to more than 1,000 deaths in and near Mumbai and the rest of the state of Maharashtra. Two years later, some of the heaviest monsoon rains in India's history killed at least 2,800 people in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan in 2007. Several million people lost their homes.

India's monsoon has become more unpredictable in recent years. Drought years have become more intense and floods more devastating. Some years, parts of India drown in rain while others nearby are drought-stricken. The monsoon has always been noted for extremes (the history of India records many of them), but with warming, drought-or-deluge has become almost an annual affair. As warming continues, some climate models indicate that summers in India may become hotter, with rains often more fierce but erratic.

Continue reading here: Warming And Spreading Deserts

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