Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hotter Southeast in decades to come, plus some tornado implications

S. Heather Duncan in (Georgia): Are Middle Georgia summers hot enough for you? Because according to the U.S. government, they’re going to get hotter. Due to global warming, the Southeast is likely to see twice as many days a year with temperatures hitting the 90 degree mark or hotter, according to a federal report released last month. The report also predicts that the hottest days will be more than 10 degrees hotter.

…Besides the blazing heat, the report predicts other major changes to Southern climate: more frequent and intense droughts, a higher sea level and more powerful hurricanes and storm surges. These will, in turn, drive up insurance costs.

…Marshall [Shephard] was the lead author of the NASA-funded study, which analyzed 50 years of Southeast weather and climate data. Researchers found there were spring tornado days after a drought the previous fall and winter.

“We think when the soil is dry, it keeps the early spring from being primed for thunderstorms,” said Shepherd, who started the research after Atlanta was hit by downtown tornadoes during the state’s recent historic drought. Macon and other Middle Georgia communities were also ravaged by destructive tornadoes last year.

Shepherd’s group is now checking to see if drought has the same relationship with tornadoes in the Midwest’s “tornado alley.” If so, it could provide meteorologists their first tool for predicting the severity of upcoming tornado seasons as they do for hurricane seasons.

…Shepherd and other scientists say more specific Southeast climate research is needed. The national report also recommended regional studies to guide local leaders on decisions about zoning, building codes, infrastructure and crop planting.

“We really need to think about a Southern strategy for climate change,” [according to air pollution specialist and deputy director of the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems at Georgia Tech Michael Chang. Chang noted] that the European model is more socialist, and existing American models used in California and the Northeast rely on heavy regulation that would not be accepted in the South.

Children working in a mill in Macon, Georgia, around 1909

No comments: