Natural Disasters

Parched California Braces for Drought Without End in Sight

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 24, 2014   View Article

As California and other western states face what some scientists fear could be a prolonged drought amplified by global warming, water experts say there’s simply no way to predict how long the dry spell will last.

The best thing to do, they said, is to prepare for the worst and hope for rain. It wouldn’t be the first time California soil went parched for a long stretch. Tree growth rings in the region show evidence of prolonged periods of aridity in the past.

“To know that we are going into another pattern like that, that we could expect this drought to persist for 10 to 15 years is really, really, really hard to say,” Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., told NBC News. “There is really nothing in our forecasting models that are being looked at that would suggest that we would even have the ability to do that.”

Surviving typhoons will require smart building – and a cultural shift

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 11, 2013   View Article

As the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan becomes clear, a question lurks on the horizon: How can the world’s most vulnerable communities prepare for increased storminess on a warming planet? Answers range from using nature to weaken surging walls of water to building homes that can withstand buffeting winds. All will require a shift in priorities, experts say.

“The science is very clear about the trends in climate change, and one of the impacts is definitely more intense and potentially more frequent storms,” Imen Meliane, director of the international marine program at The Nature Conservancy in Washington, told NBC News. To prepare for this stormier world, the environmental group advocates increasing the natural protections of coastlines.

Weather pattern could provide early warning for catastrophic U.S. heat waves

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 27, 2013   View Article

The emergence of a newly identified atmospheric pattern is likely to provide two to three weeks advance warning that a stifling and potentially deadly heat wave will hit the U.S., according to a new study. Since current forecasts go out no more than 10 days, the additional notice could give homeowners, farmers, electric companies and hospitals critical time to prepare for severe heat.

The precursor is a so-called “wavenumber 5″ pattern, a sequence of alternating high and low pressure systems — five each — that ring the northern mid-latitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface, according the research published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

11-year-old designs a better sandbag, named ‘America’s Top Young Scientist’

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 10, 2013   View Article

An 11-year-old boy from Florida has designed a new kind of sandbag to better protect life and property from the ravages of saltwater floods. His invention took top honors at a science fair this week, earning him a $25,000 check and a trip to Costa Rica.

“Living in Florida, I’m keenly aware of hurricanes and saltwater flooding,” the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge grand prize winner Peyton Robertson, who is a sixth grader at the Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., told NBC News.

Warming planet could spawn bigger, badder thunderstorms

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 23, 2013   View Article

As the Earth continues to warm during this century, atmospheric conditions ripe for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes will increase in the U.S., according to a new study.

Given the amount of damage caused by the straight-line winds, golf-ball-sized hail or flash floods associated with any given severe thunderstorm, understanding whether they will increase in frequency or intensity on a warming planet is a key question in climate science.

Colorado floods triggered by convergence of geography and climate, experts say

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 17, 2013   View Article

The torrent of water that gushed over and down the Rocky Mountains late last week resulted from a fateful confluence of geography and weather. While the deluge is unprecedented in the historic record, it may offer a window onto the new normal as the planet continues to warm.

The exact role of global climate change in the deluge is uncertain, but it certainly played a part, according to climate, weather and policy experts.

As of Tuesday, more than 17 inches of rain had fallen since Sept. 12 in Boulder, Colo. The soaking, described as “biblical” by the National Weather Service, left at least eight people dead with hundreds more still missing and rendered untold millions of dollars in property damage.

Satellite’s failure on eve of hurricane season ruffles meteorologist

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 23, 2013   View Article

For the second time in less than a year, the main satellite that keeps an eye on severe weather systems in the eastern half of the United States has malfunctioned, according to government officials. The failure is indicative of the overall aging of the nation’s weather satellite network that could lead to gaps in coverage as the fleet is replaced, an expert said.

Although a backup satellite began operating Thursday, the failure of GOES-East, also known as GOES-13, is “really bad timing because of the upcoming hurricane season, and also we are smack dab in the middle of severe weather season,” Marshall Shepherd, president of the American Meteorological Society, told NBC News.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach