of weather and changing climate...
As New South Wales became the hottest place on the planet, Saturday/Sunday 11/12 February, a few questions arise from the ashes of the burnt land and houses:
Is god using natural disaster to punish sinners?
YES, if you believe in god.
But if you believe in god, this does not make sense anyway. Usually it’s the poor and the uneducated believers who get hit for six, because they live in most danger prone areas, while it’s the rich who don’t care and sin as much as possible with massive greed and sex-romps who get away with little damage since their houses are cyclone-proof. Sin pays. Being poor, god punishes you for the sins of the rich. Work this one out, even with His mysterious ways.
So the proper answer is NO. God doest not use natural disasters to punish people. God does not exist. Natural disasters happen because the planet is “dynamic”.
Due to complex interaction between its internal forces and the crust, earthquakes and volcanoes happen.
Due to the complex interactions and the long history of evolving change between the sea, the land, the atmosphere, the bio-kingdom and the sun, the surface of the planet has “variability” that sometimes becomes extreme and kills people and life, with no intent. So what are the variabilities?
Is there an observable climate change?
Climate changes all the time within limits. Weather patterns are part of these changes. But presently there is an added change that is called global warming. This new change is pushing the boundaries of climate beyond the natural limits. So. Is there a warming of the atmosphere?
NO if you are a denialist, an idiot and a snake-oil merchant.
YES if you are a serious scientist. All the studies of climate are showing there is a warming of the atmosphere. Other studies can show that this warming has an impact on the behaviour of climate, which in turns has an influence on weather extremes.
Is the weather going to become more “brutal”?
NO if you are a denialist. Changes are natural and the increase of devastation is an illusion, even if you loose your own house to floods, fire or a rising tide.
YES if you are a serious meteorologist. Though in present extreme events, there are less fatalities than in the past traumatic events. This is due to better warming systems and people taking shelter, despite an increase in strength and number of traumatic events. The damage in terms of destruction and insurance payouts is thus increasing at a rapid rate.
Where have the “Sydney Southerly Busters” gone?
During many summers past, Sydney was famous for its Southerly Busters.
Sydney sits at the confluent of four major weather patterns.
Westerlies : HOT wind in summer coming from the inland furnace.
COOL to cold winds in winter coming from the Snowy Mountains.
Southerlies : Cool in summer. Can appear at the end of a single hot day up to 42 degrees Celsius. Strong winds coming from the southern ocean bringing rain and storms. One can see it coming as a cold front from the south with a rolling dark cloud at the head. Twirling clouds behind, strong cool wind up to 50 knots (80-85 km/h) with gusts up to 60 knots on the ground can follow a dead calm. Temperature can drop 15 degrees in a matter of one minute (42 down to 27, then down to 21 a few hours later at night). A “normal” southerly buster comes in for about three days and peters out. Strong wind and temperature below 20 degrees. Cool in winter but not as cold as winter westerlies.
During a hot summer day, when the light breeze shifts to the south without clouds or with only light clouds cover, the Kookaburra singing is a sign of rain within the next three days. Rain comes usually 2 days after the song. Animals are like that, they know. Ants will enter kitchen from the garden and look for a dry spot to start a new colony, with the same two days warning.
Recently most southerlies have been pissweak, as the huge amount of unusual inland heat that slowly moves out to sea is a) preventing the southerly to reach northward and b) the southerly has to push a lot of this heat, now cloudy (moisture from the sea) but without rain, back onto the land. It creates weird weather of to and fro.
Easterlies : do not last long as the wind shifts from the south (southerly) and turns into a Nor’easter after three/four days. The easterlies can bring unstable weather.
Nor’easters : Summer and winter, the Nor’easter brings more warm CLEAR air from along the northern coast. The Nor’easter is often a sea-breeze following a weak morning westerly. Nor'easters are refreshing in Summer and crisp in winter but pleasant nonetheless. Lately, due to the warm sea (well above average) some Nor’easters have brought unshapened clouds near ground level: I call these “fluffus”.
Why did the last major devastating lasting storm in Sydney come from the North-East?
A strong Nor’easter combined with a deep trough from the west at the same time as king tides. The nord-easter became loaded with moisture and the usually gentle sea-breeze blew at up to 150 km/h which created BIG waves. Some of the biggest waves along the coast of Sydney were measured at about 12 metes while a couple of 17 metres waves were recorded off the coast. These waves and the king tides destroyed northerly and easterly facing beaches and their houses. These places NEVER got more than a 25 knot sea breeze (40 km/h) once or twice a year.
For the past few years, especially in Autumn, Winter and Spring the Nor’easters have carried more and more moisture in clouds , “fluffus” as already mentioned. These are undefined LOW clouds formed from the warmer (and getting warmer) sea surface. There are also increasing wind-shears which can confuse the landing direction of aircrafts at Mascot Airport. The lower sea breeze is pleasant and warmish, while at about 100 metres above ground, a storm-like wind is forcing these fluffus towards the south and the west where they accummulate along the mountains. They rain there should the temperature be conducive. The DEW point is paramount.
Why was there an unpredicted devastating rain storm on Tuesday 7 February in Sydney?
The BoM “predicted” a storm about 16 minutes after the storm started. The main event of the storm lasted 10 minutes and droped about 50 mm of rain. It was pouring buckets! So how come the BoM did not see the storm coming?
There are various cloudbursts that lead to rain, hail and tornadoes. Some of these, despite highly sophisticated measuring devices, including radars, cannot be predicted. Tornadoes can be often predicted with sophisticated measurements, but not the downburst.
A strong cold wind from an upper level of the atmosphere can penetrate inside a large cloud (usually a cumulonimbus) from the side. Due to the differential of temperature between the cold wind and the warmer temperature inside the cloud, this strong cold wind can accelerate within the cloud in a downward motion, sometimes taking with it water droplets and ice crystals. It suddenly burst below the cloud at speed. In April, 2015, such burst brought down hail at the speed of bullets. This hail is smaller (olive sized) than the big golf ball/orange-sized which fall by gravity alone.
The downburst can have speed up to 270 km/h downwards (75 m/s) while the updraft inside the cloud can be at 40 m/s. The downburst can make a lot of damage in the air (aircraft fatalities) and with a radiating strong flow once it hits the ground. As the downburt cloud passes, the wind direction will twirl according to the shift of the centre in the radiating ground wind. The debris will always fly away from the centre of the downburst while the debris usually fly towards the centre in a tornado. Imagine the different ends of a vacuum cleaner or a leaf-blower. One end sucks (tornado, reduced pressure), the other side blows (downburst, added pressure). Downburst can often be mistaken for tornadoes, but the damage although as extensive, has a different pattern and a larger footprint on the ground. Microbursts are very localized downbursts and are also very hard to predict.
Why are there floods in Western Australia at the same time as the bushfires in NSW and super heat in Queensdland?
Here I would suggest that there is a bit of turbulence “arrested”. The heat bubble is in the middle of a low pressure system that cannot take off. Normal trough and high pressure systems that would cross the centre of Australia are derouted by this stationary heat bubble which is moving slowly east while gaining heat in the west. Cold winds from the southern oceans accumulate in the southern part of Western Australia and all the moisture becomes locked and “sliding” back southeast. The cold air, ladden with moisture, drops rain on the spot rather than warm up and retain moisture as it normally would while reaching the warmer centre of the continent.
All weather patterns are subjected to horizontal and vertical turbulences, eddies and waves. As the atmosphere heats up to new records, these transformations that have been “patternable” by record of many past years, become unpredictable and out of kilter. The atmosphere is a complex mix of diminishing pressure with altitude while humidity varies from clear and cloudy vapour, vertically and horizontally. There is also an array of interfering gases such as CO2 and methane. Changing characteristics of any of these factors can change local and general climate. The temperature of CO2 can interfere with the temperature of water vapour leading to unpredictable change.
We know that the warmer it gets, the more water vapour can become clear rather than cloudy, but the warmer the atmosphere gets, the more water vapour it can absorbs. All this leads to increase in “instability” factors between cloudy and clear vapours, factors that are already hard to estimate despite our technology and super computers.
BUT THE TRENDS ARE MEASURABLE.
In the end, the adding of EXTRA CO2 in the atmosphere creates the main warming trend. There is enough EXTRA CO2 presently to lift atmospheric temperature by 6 to 9 degrees Celsius within the next 150 years. This EXTRA CO2 is not part of the natural carbon cycle and comes exclusively from humans burning fossil fuels.
More to come
Your local weather man