Sunday, March 15, 2015

Greenhouse Warming and Cyclone Pam in Vanatu

                                                                     Heat map of Cyclone Pam (NOAA)

Cyclone Pam just hit Vanuatu. By any measure Cyclone Pam is one of the largest and strongest storms ever seen. A NOAA estimate of atmospheric pressures produced by Cyclone Pam was as low as 879 millibars, a value lower then any Atlantic Hurricane every measured. If the 879 millibar number holds up it would make Cyclone Pam the fifth strongest Cyclone ever seen on Earth.

In theory global warming should produce more intense tropical storms. Warmer conditions should result in more evaporation and greater amounts of water in the storm cloud. The warmer ocean conditions should allow more energy to be transferred to the storm cloud and produce larger and more intense storms with very low atmospheric pressures.

By any measure these conditions are fulfilled now. The year 2014 was the warmest since instrumental records began, and now an El Nino has started in early 2015, warming the waters of the western equatorial Pacific even more. Cyclone Pam is clearly a product of global warming, just as the record global temperatures seen in 2014 are a product of global warming.

One of the ironies of the fact that increasing amounts of CO
2 in the air are warming the planet is the CO2 is largely being emitted by people who live large wealthy industrialized nations like China, the US, the nations of the EU, etc., but the impacts of global warming are being felt by poor people who don't drive cars, live simply, grow their own food and catch their own fish, and emit very little carbon but just happen to live in vulnerable places like Vanuatu.   

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