Searching for Climate Signals in Louisiana’s Epic Flood

Louisiana: This Ain’t Normal!

Popular Science took on the question that is on most (science-accepting), people. Louisiana has been hot with at least 24 inches of water in 24 hours, with Watson, Louisiana topping out at 31 inches. The American Red Cross declared it the worst crisis since Hurricane Sandy.

The explanation is very simple for those of us who understand how climate change is changing the “normal” patterns of precipitation patterns.  It’s pretty simple really – when it’s a warmer world, there is more evaporation and therefore water vapor in the atmosphere. So when it rains, it deluges.

From the Popular piece:

The record-breaking deluge was fueled in turn by a record-breaking amount of water vapor in the atmosphere above the southeastern Louisiana. The National Weather Service reported water vapor levels in the atmosphere so high they came close to breaking the Weather Service chart.

Lousisiana Flood Graph

But for Louisiana had the double whammy as the article explains:

In the particular case of the Louisiana rains, global warming landed a double whammy. Not only was a warmer atmosphere ready to hold more water, the waters of the Gulf were able to evaporate more easily due to unusually warm seas, a long-term trend also driven by global warming. The storm system was fed by moist winds coming off the Gulf coast where sea surface temperatures were running hot, bumped up by global warming. In the days immediately before the storm, sea surface temperatures in the Gulf hovered near 90°F, 4-5°F above average.

SeaTemps map

So, you don’t have to be a climate scientist to recognize that warmer waters (like 90 degrees) is going t o evaporate quickly, and when it rains, it deluges.

It’s part of a larger regional feature of increased water vapor in the Unites States. NASA and NOAA have studied regional changes in precipitation. In general, we are getting wetter. The jet streams have changed, and have created some “ridiculously ridges” that have cut off the natural precipitation in California (like at least a 1,200 year drought). But here is the map of our new normal precipitation.

Precipitation Map

So we have a new normal.  We will see more extreme precipitation events like in Louisiana. The question is: are we prepared for it?

Can Faith Fix Climate Change?

People of All Faiths Unite to Demand Action on Climate Change

Scientific American had a great piece on how the moral imperative of addressing climate change is rising as a top imperative and surprisingly Evangelicals are leading the most aggressive efforts.

Pope Francis, by publishing his Encyclical on Climate Change, demonstrated, not only his moral judgement and Catholic Doctrine, but also revealed a deep and wide-ranging knowledge about Climate Change, its consequences, according to the Washington Post. He even goes so far as to advocate for policies and plans to turn around the ship from this iceberg.

Katherine Hayhoe, a Climate Talk Radio Contributor is both a leading Climate Science and an Evangelical. Katherine speaks to conservative audiences about how faith and healing the earth go hand in hand.

Some churches like the Faith Community Church in Greensboro North Carolina are actively challenging their state laws.  The solar panels featured in this post were put on the Faith Community Church.  North Carolina is one of four states that prohibit the direct sale of solar power by a non-utility. They “buy” their power from a third-part, which was not explicitly banned but implied.

Canada’s Extreme Weather Week

Record Heat , Hail, Thunderstorms, Tornadoes Plague Canada

According to CTV News:

From torrential rain to loonie-sized hail to several confirmed tornadoes, it’s been a busy 24 hours for Canadian meteorologists.

Extreme weather slammed the country, particularly in the Prairies and Western Canada, on Wednesday and Thursday.



Global warming limit ‘close to being broken’

1.5 % Going Once Going,  Going Twice… Gone

August 7th, 2016

RTE News of Ireland is reporting that the upcoming meeting in Geneva of the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which plans to figure out how the world can meet the 1.5% C rise goal, as outlined in the Paris Agreement is now, only eight months later, will be very, very difficult to reach.

Stanford University Professor Chris Field, told the newspaper staying below 1.5C looked “impossible or at the very least, a very, very difficult task”.

Dr. Ben Sanderson, of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, suggested that it would take a global effort with such measures on an unprecedented scale to keep the target – a “tall order”.

“If the world puts all its resources into finding ways to generate power without burning fossil fuels, and if there were international agreements that action must happen instantly, and if carbon emissions were brought down to zero before 2050, then a rise of no more than 1.5C might just be achieved,” Dr. Sanderson said.

The panel will be looking at coordinated global efforts to move away from coal-fired power and the combustion engine as a way to still meet this 1.5% goal. Negative emission and carbon capture and storage will also be on the table.

This to me is like a real Independence Day movie, where a small group of people from different walks of life and skills gather under the direction of an exceptional “Can-Do” US President musters what it must do to destroy the asteroid heading toward Earth.

Except we don’t have the hero’s lined up yet.




Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here

One of the driest countries on Earth now makes more freshwater than it needs

That is the headline of an article in the July 29th edition of Scientific American, written by  Rowan Jacobsen, Ensia.

Call it a Desali” a natural” ization breakthrough because researchers figured out how to eliminate the Achilles heel of desalination that requires costly and chemical intensive agents with a natural chemical-free process, and now Israel, has the largest reverse osmosis facility in the world and gets 55% of its water from desalination.  Here is an excerpt of the Scientific American article:

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

The article goes on to point out that Syria, facing the same drought of 2008, just kept drilling deeper and deeper until the wells and farmland collapsed, causing an exodus to cities and creating the current unrest and crisis.

So maybe, juts maybe, the solution isn’t to “bomb the hell out of ISIS” but to have the world build them as Israeli-invented Desalination plant, get refugees back to their farms and take away the desperation that drives so many to join ISIS in the first place.

Just saying…

Solar power has big limitations. This wonder material could change that

Imagine that, Progress!

One of the things that bothers me is that when you talk to people who deny climate change, or even say there is nothing we can do about it, they always sight the limitation of renewables to displace oil and gas.

But really what incentives have there been to invent a better mousetrap when the fix was in for Big Oil. With Paris, comes progress – faster than ever!

Move over, Standard Photovoltaic (PV) cells, there’s a new kid in town as the Eagles say, called Perovskites, which are “a wide-ranging class of materials in which organic molecules, made mostly of carbon and hydrogen, bind with a metal such as lead and a halogen such as chlorine in a three-dimensional crystal lattice—can be made much more cheaply and with fewer emissions”, according to Jeffrey Carbeck, a Specialist Leader in Advanced Materials and Manufacturing at DC Innovations, Deloitte.

According to Carbeck in a World Economic Forum article, Perovskites, solve all three major problems associated with Photovoltaics and is rapidly advancing their efficiencies – on track to outpace them as they are a new technology and PV’s are a mature one.

Innovation follows imagination. We have plenty of imaging to do as we are charged with rapidly transitioning an old dirty fossil fuel dependent infrastructure, to a cleaner brighter future!