Hurricanes and Flooding

As Canadians we seem to enjoy speaking with strangers about weather more than just about anything else. But, maybe our eye-on-the-sky is growing increasingly justified. In 2017 flooding in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. Not long before it was Calgary and before that Winnipeg. This year it’s south-central BC, again.

(Transcript of Lawrence Gunther’s bi-weekly 12-minute segment on Live from Studio 5 broadcast over AMI TV and Audio across Canada)

Q. Welcome back Lawrence, is there scientific evidence that we should be increasingly worried about weather?

A. Most of the time the atmospheric conditions are quite calm. Unfortunately, due to climate change, increased air and water temperatures are generating more intense storms and hurricanes faster, and with their heavier rains, flooding is now just as big a problem as high winds.

Q. Just how many storms and hurricanes do we experience on an average year?

A. An average season includes 12 named storms and six hurricanes.
A. This year weather experts are predicting 14 storms and 7 hurricanes.

Q. Why is flooding becoming more of an issue?

A. Oceans are warming which allows storms to pick up water faster and more efficiently.
A. Right now, the western Atlantic is abnormally warm, but the eastern and northern Atlantic is abnormally cool
A. A weak La Niña event in the Pacific (which means that waters are cool) means there won’t be any La Niña or El Niño conditions this year.

Q. And yet, weather experts seem to be more worried about flooding even though ocean temperatures seem to be indicating the opposite?

A. In recent years, storms have become more intense in a short period of time, undergoing rapid intensification. That was the case for several of the most destructive storms of last summer and fall.
A. Researchers also say that as the world gets warmer, we can expect to see more intense storms that dump more rain, causing floods.

Q. So why do we worry about hurricanes more than storms?
A.  It’s the storms that represent the weather that’s most frequently causing the problems. Sure, hurricanes pack the punch of extreme winds, but it’s all those storms that seem to be carrying an ever increasing amount of rain and causing the floods.
A. Harvey caused $125-billion in damage to Texas last year, and it was categorized a storm, not a hurricane.

Q. How many different senses do we use to detect an in-coming storm other than sight to watch for dark clouds?

A. The smell of Ozone generated by distant heavy rain, the sound of far-off thunder, The feel of the calm before the storm and then winds building and shifting, sudden and significant Temperature changes, the pressure in your ears changing as atmospheric pressure drops, and the one you want to pay close attention to, the hair on the back of your neck standing up which generally means you’re in an electrical field and lightening is about to strike.