Bob Dylan once told us, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.” As I read The Washington Post Monday morning, I thought, “You don’t need to be a climatologist to tell that climate change is a reality.” The article I was reading was about the “Atmospheric River” that is dropping record amounts of rain on large parts of California.
I never heard the term “atmospheric river” until recently. “Bomb cyclones” were also unknown to me and, I suspect, to most of us. If recent weather patterns are any indication, we better brush up on both terms. They may become something of a new normal.
Bomb cyclones are no longer rarities. Fox News tells us: “A bomb cyclone, also known as explosive cyclogenesis or bombogenesis, is a fast-developing storm that occurs when atmospheric pressure drops at least 24 millibars over a 24-hour period. Bombogenesis refers to the quickness of how fast the low pressure develops. The intense pressure can intensify storms and cause them to spin counterclockwise, creating heavy winds, blizzard conditions and rainfall.”
Do you remember that a bomb cyclone hit the DC area six years ago? I did, but only vaguely. Clearly it could happen again. The Eastern Shore could have been hit.
Another Atmospheric River Event is wreaking havoc in California with massive flooding caused by heavy rainfall. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tells us: “Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow regions in the atmosphere – like rivers in the sky – that transport most of the water vapor outside the tropics. While atmospheric rivers can vary greatly in size and strength, the average atmospheric river carries an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Exceptionally strong atmospheric rivers can transport up to 15 times that amount. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.”
Both bomb cyclones and disasters caused by atmospheric rivers are evidence of climate change. Climate change skeptics may scoff and say, “Give me a break. I’ll start worrying about extreme weather when I start to see it here.” Really? Does that strike you as wise?
While bomb cyclones and atmospheric river disasters have not yet become regular occurrences on the Eastern Shore, we already are seeing evidence of climate change that threatens our way of life. The Environmental Protection Agency wrote this in 2016: “Maryland’s climate is changing. Most of the state has warmed one to two degrees (F) in the last century, heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and the sea is rising about one inch every seven to eight years. Higher water levels are eroding beaches, submerging lowlands, exacerbating coastal flooding, and increasing the salinity of estuaries and aquifers. In coming decades, changing the climate is likely to increase coastal and inland flooding; harm marine, wetland, and inland ecosystems; disrupt fishing and farming; and increase some risks to human health.”
Climate change is a global reality. Its impact is worsening as the problem remains largely unaddressed. Dramatic action is necessary. As the 2024 election approaches, the choice is clear. President Biden regularly talks about climate change. He stewarded legislation through Congress committing significant federal funding to addressing it. The other candidate, the ex-president, denied climate change in a Tweet in 2012 but has since recanted. Here is what Donald Trump said recently: “I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”
It may take a bomb cyclone or flooding of a golf course resulting from an “atmospheric river event” to get Donald Trump to change his mind. Note that I wrote “may” rather than “will.”
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.