Climate Primer #21: Impacts of Climate Crisis – 4. Droughts and Floods

To summarize, climate crisis is the defining issue of the century. Buildup of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) in Earth’s atmosphere is driving global heating, while a convergence of global crises threatens to rupture key planetary boundaries beyond which organized human life on Earth would be threatened. Although the human activities which drive these converging crises (for simplicity: the climate crisis) are diverse and complex, the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) breaks down the sources of anthropogenic GHG emissions into five high-level sectors. Similarly, the impacts of climate crisis – in their variety and complexity – are almost impossible for an individual to grasp, but I’m at least going to highlight some of the key impacts in posts that will likely run for the next month or so. So far, this sub-series has covered: global heating, Arctic amplification, and heat waves.

Today’s post centers two types of extreme phenomena driven by anthropogenic changes in the global water cycle, droughts and floods. As AR5 puts it:

Source: AR5 of the IPCC (page 60)

Basically, many dry regions stand to get drier, many wet regions stand to get wetter, and many land masses that already experience “extreme precipitation events” (see: wet microbursts, not a porn term) stand to experience “more intense and more frequent” such events than they have in the past. Recent catastrophic fire seasons in Australia and California have been tied to unusually hot and dry weather, while it seems like Houston hardly goes a year these days without a once-in-a-century storm. In New York City, our summer thunderstorms increasingly have the character of the above-mentioned microbursts, while on the other side of this colonized continent, the US Southwest is in the midst of its worst mega-drought in 500 years (here’s the relevant Science study), and, of course, the Gulf Coast was just hit by another record-setting storm (this one driving an “unsurvivable” storm surge). I’d proffer other examples, but I suspect you don’t need them.

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