Stronger Hurricanes, Somalia Drought Are Climate Crisis Ceations, Say Scientists
16 March, 2013
Climate crisis will be producing stronger hurricanes. The crisis created famines in Somalia.
Adam Voiland writes :
Was Superstorm Sandy an expression of a “new normal” for our weather? Was it a storm pumped up by global warming?
“If you look at the unique set of circumstances in which Sandy emerged and you know something about meteorology and climate,” says Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia, “it’s hard not to ask yourself these kinds of questions.”
Sandy is not the only recent storm to make people ask questions about climate change and weather. In 2010, an epic winter storm dubbed “Snowmageddon” dumped more than half a meter (2 feet) of snow across many parts of the U.S. East Coast. And in April 2011, tornadoes killed more than 364 Americans—the most ever in a month. The rash of twisters etched scars of destruction on the landscape so long and wide that they could be seen from space. The US set records in 2011 and 2012 for the number of weather disasters that exceeded $1 billion in losses; most were storms.
All of these weather events have happened as the concentration of GHG in the atmosphere has been rising higher than it has been for at least 100,000 years. Scientists are nearly certain that the buildup of carbon dioxide has already sparked changes in Earth’s atmosphere and ecosystems. The lowest layer of the atmosphere (the troposphere) has warmed markedly, especially at high latitudes. So have the world’s oceans. Heat waves and droughts have grown more likely and more extreme. Arctic ice is melting at a record pace, and the snowy landscapes of the far north have started melting earlier each year.
Given all the change that has already taken place, it’s reasonable to wonder if climate change has affected storms as well. “After the tornadoes in 2011, I was flooded with calls from reporters,” says Anthony Del Genio, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “People wanted quick, definitive answers. The trouble is that’s not where the science is.”
Historically, research on tornadoes, hurricanes, and other types of storms has focused on short-term forecasting, not on understanding how storms are changing over time. Reliable, long-term records of storms are scarce, and the different reporting and observing methods have left many scientists and meteorologists feeling skeptical. But the study of storminess and climate has begun to mature, says Del Genio, and a consensus is emerging: for several types of storms, global warming may prime the atmosphere to produce fewer but stronger storms.
Jason Straziuso reported  from Nairobi:
Global warming may have contributed to low rain levels in Somalia in 2011 where tens of thousands died in a famine, research by British climate scientists suggests.
Scientists with Britain's weather service studied weather patterns in East Africa in 2010 and 2011 and found that yearly precipitation known as the short rains failed in late 2010 because of the natural effects of the weather pattern La Nina.
But the lack of the long rains in early 2011 was an effect of "the systematic warming due to influence on greenhouse gas concentrations," said Peter Stott of Britain's Met Office, speaking to The Associated Press in a phone interview.
The British government estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people died from the famine. But the new research doesn't mean global warming directly caused those deaths.
Ethiopia and Kenya were also affected by the lack of rains in 2011, but aid agencies were able to work more easily in those countries than in war-ravaged Somalia, where the al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremist group al-Shabab refused to allow food aid into the wide areas under its control.
The peer reviewed study will appear in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Senait Gebregziabher, the Somalia country director for the aid group Oxfam, said climate change is increasing humanitarian needs.
"In the coming decades, unless urgent action is taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures in East Africa will continue to rise and rainfall patterns will change. This will create major problems for food production and availability," Gebregziabher said.
Stott said that the evidence is "very strong" that the planet is warming due to an increase in GHG. He noted that the study indicates that both natural causes – La Nina and the short rains – and man-made causes contributed to Somalia's drought.
The Met Office's computer modeling study found that between 24 percent and 99 percent of the cause of the failure of the 2011 rains can be attributed to the presence of man-made greenhouse gases, Stott said.
Ahmed Awale of non-profit group Candlelight, which works for improving conservation and the environment, believes Somalia's climate has been changing for many decades, with rainfall patterns becoming more erratic.
"If you miss one of the two rainy seasons we have a very severe drought. The other indicator is that there is a rise in temperature," he said, adding later: "This all negatively impacts the livelihood of the people. Most of Somalis depend mostly on pastoral production."
A report  by The Gulf Today said:
Human-induced climate change contributed to low rain levels in East Africa in 2011, making global warming one of the causes of Somalia’s famine and the tens of thousands of deaths that followed, a new study has found.
It is the first time climate change was proven to be partially to blame for such a large humanitarian disaster, an aid group said on Friday.
Senait Gebregziabher, the Somalia country director for the aid group Oxfam said: “Climate change is not a threat that may hurt us in the future, because it is already causing a rise for humanitarian needs.”
 NASA Earth Observatory, March 5, 2013, “In a Warming World, Storms May Be Fewer but Stronger”,
 AP, 03/15/13, “Somalia Famine Partially Blamed On Climate Change In New Study”,
 March 16, 2013, “Study blames climate change for Somali famine”,
Comments are moderated