The recent cyclone that nailed Australia, Cyclone Yasi (one of the worst in the country’s history) cannot be conclusively tied to climate change. However, it cannot not be tied to it either.
The point many climate change deniers will be more than eager to make when discussing this tremendous cyclone is that you cannot tie any single weather event to climate change. Scientifically speaking, it can’t be done. Even if a cyclone or hurricane 5 times larger than anything we’ve ever seen builds up, we can’t do it. True.
However, extreme weather events and larger, more extreme storms like Cyclone Yasi are exactly what climate scientists have been predicting for a long time. In other words, such storms are are going to increase with global warming (or global weirding) and are already doing so. It’s no coincidence.
Last year, we saw the “weather bomb” hit the Midwest, perhaps the worst storm ever to hit this region. We are seeing a global increase in extreme weather events, from Brazil to Australia to the U.S. — no one is being spared.
If we think we can skirt nature and emit a completely unprecedented amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and it won’t have any effect, we are missing some key scientific reasoning or common sense.
The effects of global warming are not going to be pretty, and even we can testify to that now. Imagine what our children and grandchildren will have to live through.
Cyclone Yasi hit Mission Beach on the coast of Australia at about 1:00am early Thursday morning (Melbourne time) with winds blowing at approximately 285km/h.
The country was lucky in that it lost its strength rather quickly after hitting land. Nonetheless, the cyclone’s peak energy was said to be something like “10-megaton nuclear bombs detonating every 20 minutes,” according to experts. Not something anyone would like to experience.
“It is just a scene of mass destruction,” Cassowary Coast councillor Ross Sorbello said. The roof was ripped off his mother’s home.
Approximately 175,000 homes lost power.
Is the cost of such extreme weather events (or much worse) equal or greater than the cost of stopping unprecedented global climate change?
Food prices have risen significantly in recent months due to all the extreme weather events in 2010 and already in 2011. This is triggering social and political problems and upheavals and may soon result in food riots.
Cyclone Yasi is one part of the story, but the story is long and only going to get longer the more we wait to tackle climate change at the scale we need to.
How is Cyclone Yasi Connected to Climate Change?
Again, read the points at the top of this post.
Cyclone Yasi is specifically related to climate change because warmer waters generate stronger storms.
“The waters off Australia are the warmest ever measured and those waters provide moisture to the atmosphere for the Queensland and northern Australia monsoon,” Matthew England of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales reported earlier this month.
Again, more greenhouse gases = warmer world = warmer water = more extreme storms.
“Around Northern Australia and Indonesia, ocean temperatures are 0.54 °C (1°F) higher than the last 50 years, on average, and 2010 was the highest in the last ten years, which was itself the warmest decade on record for sea surface temperatures,” Susan Kraemer of our sister site Cleantechnica reports (first link in this article).
Of course, as we’ve reported a few times now, 2010 was tied for the hottest year on record.
Unfortunately, we are only beginning to see the effects of climate change.
Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video