Extreme rainfall accompanied by deadly flooding hit the United States and several other countries over the weekend and past week.
There were several dozen deaths in central and southern parts of South Korea, including the Chongju area where an underpass flooded and drowned motorists who became trapped in their submerged vehicles.
In the United States, floods killed five people in Upper Makefield Township, Pennsylvania, where a search is underway for two missing children. Flooding also hit parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey last weekend. A state of emergency has been declared in New Jersey by Governor Phil Murphy following extensive damage from flooding and landslides.
This follows relentless flooding over the past week in India, Japan, China, Turkey and the United States.
Although destructive floods occur in different parts of the world, atmospheric scientists say they have this in common: With climate change, storms are forming in a warmer atmosphere, making extreme rainfall a more common reality. frequent now. The additional warming that scientists predict will only make matters worse.
This is because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, leading to storms dumping more precipitation that can have deadly consequences. Pollutants, especially carbon dioxide and methane, warm the atmosphere. Instead of allowing heat to radiate from Earth to space, they trap it.
Although climate change is not the cause of storms that unleash precipitation, these storms do form in an atmosphere that is becoming increasingly hot and humid.
“Sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit can hold twice as much water as 50 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Rodney Wynn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay. “Warm air expands and cold air contracts. You can think of it as a balloon – when heated, the volume will expand, so it can hold more moisture.
For every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) the atmosphere warms, it retains about 7% more moisture. According to NASA, the average global temperature has increased by at least 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880.
“As a thunderstorm develops, water vapor condenses into rain droplets and falls to the surface. So as these storms form in warmer, more humid environments, precipitation increases,” explained Brian Soden, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami.
Along Turkey’s scenic mountainous Black Sea coast, heavy rains swelled rivers and damaged towns with flooding and landslides.
At least 15 people have been killed by floods in another mountainous region in southwest China.
“As the climate warms, we expect heavy rain events to become more frequent, this is a very robust prediction from climate models,” Soden added. “It’s no surprise to see these events happening, it’s what the models have been predicting since day one.”
Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the regions hardest hit by climate change aren’t those that emit the greatest amount of planet-warming pollutants.
“Most of the emissions come from industrial western countries and most of the impacts are in places that don’t have good infrastructure, are less prepared for extreme weather and have no real way to deal with it,” Schmidt said. .
During floods last week, schools in New Delhi were forced to close on July 10 after heavy monsoon rains hit the Indian capital, with landslides and flash floods killing at least 15 people. Further north, the overflow of the Beas River carried vehicles downstream flooding neighborhoods.
In Japan, torrential rains battered the southwest, causing flooding and mudslides that left two people dead and at least six others missing. Local television showed damaged homes in Fukuoka prefecture and muddy water from the overflowing Yamakuni River appearing to threaten a bridge in the town of Yabakei.
In Ulster County, New York’s Hudson Valley and Vermont, some said the flooding was the worst they’ve seen since the devastation of Hurricane Irene in 2011.
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