Written by Jillian Friesen, GEI Associate
Econintersect: With more and more natural disasters occuring such as the flooding and wildfires in Colorado and the recent tragic torrential rains in Russia, many people are left wondering if the effects of global warming are on the rise or if this is just a naturally occuring global weather pattern.
On Friday night, heavy rains swept through several Russian cities in the Krasnodar region. More than two months of normal rainfall came down in a little more than 24 hours. A reported 5,000 homes were flooded. President Vladimir Putin responded Saturday by surveying the afflicted areas by helicopter.
Picture: Drought damaged corn field in Menlo, Kansas. Click on photo for larger picture.
Russian authorities have officially declared July 9th a day of mourning for the roughly 150 and counting victims who have perished as a result of this tragedy. Horrifying reports of victims being swept out to sea as well as people being electrocuted as a power transformer fell into the flood waters have been documented.
The horrifying aftermath in Krymsk can be seen below. Tkachov, the governor of the region recently made this statement pertaining to the construction of new homes,
“If your household has been completely destroyed by rains and floods the administration of the territory undertakes the commitment to build a new home for you in 3-4 months, before the beginning of the cold period."1
© Photo Dmitriy Alekseenko, RIA Novosti
The American embassy to Russia recently put out an announcement concerning the Russian disaster and pledging help to the devestated region.
“The United States government is saddened by the loss of life, injuries, and devastation that resulted from flooding in the Krasnodar region. Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims of this tragedy. We stand ready to assist the Government of Russia and the Krasnodar region should there be a request for such help."
Back in America, everything from extreme heat waves to massive wildfires have plagued areas throughout the country. The extent of drought and extremely dry conditions as of 03 July 2012 is shown in the following map.
As of July 5, almost 56% of the land in the lower 48 states was suffering from drought conditions. This is a new all-time record, but records this detailed only go back a few years. Comparable data for the Dust Bowl years (1930s) and a severe drought period in the 1950s is not available. Those periods are believed to have experienced more extensive drought conditions than are occurring now.
This year the estimates as of last week were that many crops were in trouble. Some numbers: 22% of the corn and soybean crops were judged to be in very poor condition, along with 24% of sorghum and 43% of pastureland. Things could get much worse, however. As of July 5 the USDA outlook predicted that drought conditions would remain or become worse in much of the mid-west and plains "breadbasket, as well in the California central valley. See July 5 USDA forecast map below:
While more than 80% of the U.S. is at least abnormally dry, there have been spots of heavy rain in the country as well. In late June northern Florida received up to two feet of rainfall in less than two days from tropical storm Debby, which resulted in massive flooding. As a result Florida represents one of the larger contiguous areas not abnormally dry or in drought last week.
Extreme rains battered the Colorado front plains Saturday evening (07 July 2012). Areas in the Boulder and Larimer counties, recently affected by destructive wildfires were not spared. With much of the vegetarian scorched from recent wildfires, flood waters easily swept through the areas. A report from Saturday (07 July 2012) evening:
Rain gauges in Boulder County near Nederland indicated 1.81 inches of rain in an hour, and a flood warning remained in effect until 7 p.m.2
These recent floods have occurred during a period of extreme heat with record breaking heat waves across the U.S. Over 60 deaths have been attributed to the record temperatures. Several cities such as Chicago and St. Louis have not experienced 100 degree and above heat streaks like the ones in the past few weeks since the mid 1900's. Highways in Illinois and Wisconsin wavered under the torrid weather. Nearly 3,215 daily high temperature records were made in the month of June alone. And even higher temperatures have come in many areas during the first week of July.
Weather like this can not only cause immediate damage but dangerous driving situations.
Click on video below to view the video footage on YouTube in a new window.
Report by Sam Datta-Paulin, ITN News
"This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level," said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, when asked by Seth Borenstein of The Associated Press.
"The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about."3
After witnessing all of the recent floods, wildfires and heat waves, many are taking a second look at the studies done on the effects of global warming. Yet, it is still to early to decipher whether the disastrous events are linked to global warming, although these are what we are told are the things to expect 4 from that event.
Aftermath of storm which ravaged the Washington region Friday night: (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
John Lounsbury contributed to this article.
2. DenverPost.com: Front Range thunderstorms pound burn areas, flood roads
3. Seth Borenstein (AP): Heat, wind, fire, wind, drought, floods: US summer is 'what global warming looks like'
4. GreenDiary.com 5 Most Destructive effects of global warming on our environment