Crazy weather doesn’t necessarily come from climate change
Everybody is talking about the uncharacteristically strange weather we have been having this spring, and, of course, the immediate suspect is climate change.
My conversations with weather experts from AccuWeather and the National Weather Service indicate that when it comes to weather events, nothing is that decidedly black and white, more nuances of gray.
Though it can be hard to pinpoint whether climate change intensified a particular weather event, climate experts are learning more.
While scientists aren’t certain about whether climate change has led to more intense weather events, they are confident that rising sea levels are leading to higher storm surges and more floods.
Of course, if you are a news junkie as I am, you couldn’t help but notice that major bad weather events were the lead stories on most of the national network nightly news reports every day last week.
There were calamitous tornadoes and floods in the Midwest and South, torrential downpours in virtually every state east of the Mississippi and late spring snows of up to several feet in Colorado and several other western states.
Here in our area, it seems as if we are getting severe storm warnings every other day, including periodic tornado alerts. Toward the end of last week, area residents fled to their basements or interior rooms after tornado warnings were issued in several of our area’s counties.
Fortunately, there were no injuries from the storm, but there were a few weather-related fires, some property damage and power outages.
On top of last year’s abnormally wet weather, we are well on our way to having even more precipitation this year. During the first five months, the National Weather Service reports that we have had a total of more than 9 inches, or 57 percent more precipitation than normal.
By this time in a normal year, we would have had just about 16 inches, while this year we have already had about 25 inches. In May, precipitation is more than double what we normally experience — about 8 inches vs. about 3½ inches.
Weather specialists say that we are in an “active” weather pattern, which accounts for the frequent storms. Not only that, but these storms can be isolated. For example, Tamaqua could be experiencing drenching rain, while 15 miles away not a drop falls in Jim Thorpe.
I want to make it clear that I am not a climate change naysayer; quite the contrary. The abundance of credible science on the topic makes the evidence incontrovertible. What I am saying, however, is that not every unusual weather event is the result of climate change, which is a more gradual rather than sudden phenomenon.
I know those of my age group are fond of recalling the epic snowstorms of our youth. Yes, it’s true. I remember as a boy trudging through the streets of Summit Hill with snow up to my chest. In fact, it seems that the depth of those storms increases with each passing year and retelling.
When it comes to weather, all is relative. The record snowfall for one storm in our area is 31.7 inches in January 2016. In Oswego, New York, where I lived for 16 years, the record snowfall for one event was 102 inches during the Blizzard of 1966.
Our area is more affected by heavy rainfall, sometimes the remnants of tropical storms, hurricanes or repetitive weather patterns. Diane in 1955 and Agnes in 1972 were the grandmommies of them all, but as recently as last year, parts of Schuylkill County were battered by back-to-back summer storms that produced heavy rains that led to lots of evacuations, water rescues and damage, reminiscent of the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee in 2011.
This concern persists this year. Those who experience the dislocation and chaos caused by rampaging floodwaters through and around their homes are never quite the same, they tell me.
Every time it rains or anytime there is a forecast for severe weather, they become anxious and concerned, wondering whether they might have to go through this wrenching experience again.
Some who have lived through multiple flood episodes decided to leave property situated in high-risk areas, but others do not have the means to leave and are left to the mercy of the weather gods.
By Bruce Frassinelli | email@example.com