Fort Lauderdale Weather In Context

Police evacuate residents from this week’s epic Ft. Lauderdale floods

You probably did not need Bill McKibben’s newsletter to tell you about this weather event, but putting it in context is what he is particularly good at:

We’re in for a stretch of heavy climate

Ominous signs that the next step phase of global warming is starting;

This week’s Fort Lauderdale rainstorm was, on the one hand, an utter freak of nature (storms ‘trained’ on the same small geography for hours on end, dropping 25 inches of rain in seven hours; the previous record for all of April was 19 inches) and on the other hand utterly predictable. Every degree Celsius that we warm the planet means the atmosphere holds more water vapor; as native Floridian and ace environmental reporter Dinah Voyles Pulver pointed out, “with temperatures in the Gulf running 3 to 4 degrees above normal recently, that’s at least 15% more rainfall piled up on top of a ‘normal’ storm.”

Get ready for far more of it; there are myriad scattered signs that we’re about to go into a phase of particularly steep climbs in global temperature. They’re likely to reach impressive new global records—and that’s certain to produce havoc we’ve not seen before.

Climate change is, of course, an inexorable and grinding process; every year we pour more carbon and methane into the air, and eventually this inevitably results in higher temperatures. The real damage goes on without cease, month after month—see, for instance, our recent discussion about the ongoing collapse of the Antarctic ocean current that cycles nutrients across the earth’s seas. But our planet is not a simple test-tube, and its particular dynamics mean sometimes that warming is slower and sometimes faster. The last global record temperature came in 2016, and coincided with the peak of an El Nino warm cycle in the Pacific.

For much of the time since then we’ve been in a La Nina cool phase in the Pacific, and that’s depressed global temperatures—just a little. Every year has been in the top ten all time, but the global temperature has only matched, not exceeded, that record. Every time this cycle happens, climate deniers claim that the planet has begun to cool—but of course with the next El Nino the planet sets a new record, pushed higher by all the greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the meantime. Here’s a nifty graphic that makes the point quite elegantly; watch it and you’ll have a keener sense of the rhythms of our planet in this odd era.

The fact that we’ve seen the most extreme heat waves and rainfalls in human history during this period of slightly depressed global temperatures is scary—when it hit 121 Fahrenheit in Canada the year before last, or when Chinese weather stations recorded all 30 of the hottest days in their history last summer, or when parts of Pakistan saw 700% of annual rainfall in one month last autumn, it was as if the beast that is global warming was snarling at the end of a very threadbare rope…

Read the whole newsletter here.

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