"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Daily Rainfall Record Exceeded By 60%

While we're caught in futile waiting for our first raindrop in over a month and perhaps our fourth rain event of the year here in Austin, the northeast continues to be drastically, roll-a-13-ishly wet.

Jeff Masters, as usual, has the scoop:
An extreme rainfall event unprecedented in recorded history has hit the Binghamton, New York area, where 7.49" fell yesterday. This is the second year in a row Binghamton has recorded a 1-in-100 year rain event; their previous all-time record was set last September, when 4.68" fell on Sep 30 - Oct. 1, 2010. Records go back to 1890 in the city. The skies have now cleared in Binghamton, with this morning's rain bringing the city's total rainfall for the 40-hour event to 9.02". However, another large region of rain lies just to the south in Pennsylvania, and all of the rivers in the surrounding region are in major or record flood. The Susquehanna River at Binghamton is at 25.18', its highest level since records began in 1847, and is expected to overtop the flood walls protecting the city this afternoon. In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Swatara Creek is 18' over flood stage, and more than 8' above its record flood crest. Widespread flash flooding is occurring across the entire area, and over 125,000 people have been evacuated from their homes.
You don't often see a major city break its all-time 24-hour precipitation record by a 60% margin, according to wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, and he can't recall ever seeing it happen before. It's worth noting that the Susquehanna River Binghamton stream gage, which has been in operation since 1847, is due to be shut off in 3 weeks due to budget cuts.
Have we been underestimating the extent to which climate change will drive extreme events?

How should we be thinking about such bizarre occurrences?

And how the hell is it possible that we cannot afford something we were able to achieve in 1847, after 164 years of sustained 3% growth compounded annually? Can someone explain that to me?

h/t Lou Grinzo


Anonymous said...

"Have we been underestimating the extent to which climate change will drive extreme events?"

I think the appropriate question is, if we want to be prepared, "How long so we wait before we assume that we have been underestimating the extent to which climate change will drive extreme events?"

Whenever I hear the experts discuss it, they say it will take decades to tease the AGW signal from the random noise of extreme weather. I wish the implications of that were more widely discussed.

dbostrom said...

And how the hell is it possible that we cannot afford something we were able to achieve in 1847, after 164 years of sustained 3% growth compounded annually?

I read that at Masters' post and then rushed back here to ask the same question. On the other hand, it's a rhetorical query; the answer is pretty obvious. We've been steadily growing the demands we place on government while avidly shrinking our revenue in relation to those demands.

More questions.

Do we demand too much of government? Were private market forces rushing in to look after indigent retirees with no hope of repayment, build Hoover Dam and wait 60 years for ROI, fund basic research, arm the Pentagon for free, operate stream gauges with a tiny, chronically lossy but important market for the resulting data?

Will we survive passing through the Great Cloud of Stupid?

David B. Benson said...

Stream guages: write your congresscritters. Suggest buying one less F-35 instead.

guthrie said...

David Brin, well known SF author, pointed out on his blog recently that without the tax cuts for the rich and pointless invasions of Iraq and Aghanistan, costing (he claimed) a coupel of trillion, the USA would be in fine shape financially. And that without all of that, the federal government spending, or was it tax, wasn't really any different from before Bush 2.

Basically I suggest that the USA has been run into a tree and the drunk drivers have sold it for scrap and are now waiting for you to give them a free lift home.

Steve Bloom said...

Nicely put, Guthrie.

WV, in a mood for Germanic articles, suggests derfun has hardly begun.

Adam said...

"Have we been underestimating the extent to which climate change will drive extreme events?"

The obvious answer now seems to be yes, given the fact that astonishing events such as this are becoming commonplace.

This summer in Texas, last summer in Russia, the floods in Pakistan, the 2003 European heat wave; how many hints do we need?

Jim Bouldin said...

Check out the discussion of tropical storm Nate at wunderground. You might have some water headed your way, maybe a lot.

David B. Benson said...

Adam --- Arctic ice isn't enough?

Pangolin said...

So we all understood that climate change was going to load the dice towards extreme weather events. None of us seemed to understand that the weight of that loading was something akin to putting depleted uranium b.b.s in a set of standard plastic bones.

Extreme weather news is not supposed to be a daily occurrence.

David B. Benson said...

Pangolin --- Almost 100 times in the USA alone so far this calendar year according to Munich Re.

Steve Bloom said...

Michael, you should add Jeff's blog to your sidebar, and Ricky Rood's for that matter.

Taylor said...

Record rainfall? Pffft...obviously, it's an artifact of the urban heat island effect .

DThompson55 said...

We were just there on Tuesday on a wine and cheese tour. Remember that this is the region that got hammered with Irene driven rains just a week before. We heard of a dairy farmer who lost 40 head and many of his buildings when a creek rose 9 feet in less than an hour. We're as unprepared for this as you are for the opposite.

Dol said...

Heard today about Total's potentially massive new gas find in the Caspian Sea. Mulled a bit over current known reserves.

Then wondered: is there actually going to be a point, somewhere, where it becomes clear to everyone what we're doing? Or are the Perrys of the world going to dig in? At what point will the slowly accreting costs of the damage reach a tipping point? I know this is kind of the `whats the climate 9/11' question, but it's probably not going to come to that, is it?

You can't actually boil frogs, apparently, that's a myth - but it's looking increasingly likely you can boil the entire human species if you do it slowly enough.

dbostrom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dbostrom said...

To Dan's question, here's the "plan" or proposed chaotic stampede vector:

"World energy-related carbon dioxide emissions rise from 29.7 billion metric tons in 2007 to 33.8 billion metric tons in 2020 and 42.4 billion metric tons in 2035—an increase of 43 percent over the projection period. With strong economic growth and continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels expected for most non-OECD economies under current policies, much of the projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions occurs among the developing non-OECD nations. In 2007, non-OECD emissions exceeded OECD emissions by 17 percent; in 2035, they are projected to be double OECD emissions (Figure 10). "

EIA 2010 World Energy Projection

First we have to get past dawning recognition, but after epiphany happens it'll be way too late to solve the astoundingly large substitution problem in time to forestall the trainwreck. Heck, it already -is- too late; we should have been all over this back in 1990.

Meanwhile, beyond the physical addiction problem, the top ten oil and gas extraction, refining and marketing outfits have a combined annual revenue of ~$2.3 trillion. Lots of skimming possible from that sort of cash flow, very little incentive to walk away, lots of motivation to dig in heels. There's still a lot of hydrocarbon to be monetized.

Aaron said...

Sometimes Kahn was wrong.

Winston Churchill: Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat (1940)


Without victory (aganist AGW) there is no survival. . .

Paul Baer said...

This is actually a response to Grypo's #1:

My take on the implications of the long time for a clear signal, is that it means - similar to your first question - that we need to think about what we will assume to be true for the purpose of action, and that we need to do so with ethical concerns in mind about the distribution of risk under different assumptions.