DATE: September 9, 2020
SNIP: A record amount of California is burning, spurred by a nearly 20-year mega-drought. To the north, parts of Oregon that don’t usually catch fire are in flames.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic’s 16th and 17th named tropical storms are swirling, a record number for this time of year. Powerful Typhoon Haishen lashed Japan and the Korean Peninsula this week. Last month it hit 130 degrees in Death Valley, the hottest Earth has been in nearly a century.
Phoenix keeps setting triple-digit heat records, while Colorado went through a weather whiplash of 90-degree heat to snow this week. Siberia, famous for its icy climate, hit 100 degrees earlier this year, accompanied by wildfires. Before that Australia and the Amazon were in flames.
Amid all that, Iowa’s derecho — bizarre straight-line winds that got as powerful as a major hurricane, causing billions of dollars in damages — barely went noticed.
Freak natural disasters — most with what scientists say likely have a climate change connection — seem to be everywhere in the crazy year 2020. But experts say we’ll probably look back and say those were the good old days, when disasters weren’t so wild.
“It’s going to get A LOT worse,” Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said Wednesday. “I say that with emphasis because it does challenge the imagination. And that’s the scary thing to know as a climate scientist in 2020.”
Colorado University environmental sciences chief Waleed Abdalati, NASA’s former chief scientist, said the trajectory of worsening disasters and climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas is clear, and basic physics.
“I strongly believe we’re going to look back in 10 years, certainly 20 and definitely 50 and say, ‘Wow, 2020 was a crazy year, but I miss it,’” Abdalati said.
That’s because what’s happening now is just the type of crazy climate scientists anticipated 10 or 20 years ago.
A year like 2020 could have been the subject of a marvelous science fiction film in 2000,” Cobb said. “Now we have to watch and digest real-time disaster after disaster after disaster, on top of a pandemic. The outlook could not be any more grim. It’s just a horrifying prospect.”
“The 2030s are going to be noticeably worse than the 2020s,” she said.
Expect stronger winds, more drought, more heavy downpours and floods, Abdalati said.
“The kind of things we’re seeing are no surprise to the (scientific) community that understands the rules and the laws of physics,” Abdalati said.