News / Asia

    Three Questions: Severe Weather in Asia

    Pakistani villagers make their way through flood waters in Baseera, Pakistan, 24 Aug 2010
    Pakistani villagers make their way through flood waters in Baseera, Pakistan, 24 Aug 2010
    Ira Mellman

    The headlines over the past few months have told of over a thousand killed in floods in Pakistan; hundreds have lost their lives and livelihoods elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia.

    The question being asked by many is why this is happening.

    Gerald Meehl is a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US city of Boulder, Colorado.


    Why has Asian weather been so severe?


    What’s been happening since spring of this year is that the “El Nino” that we had last year when the temperatures in the equatorial Eastern Pacific were somewhat above normal has transitioned to a “La Nina” when the sea temperatures were somewhat below normal.

    A “La Nina” year started in the spring and then carried on through the summer, and we’re still in it now and it will probably last until spring of 2011. What happens during a “La Nina,” and this has been established by looking at a lot of “La Niña’s” going back at least 150 years, is that we tend to expect a stronger than normal South Asian monsoon. In other words, you expect to see heavy rainfall over South Asia during summer monsoon season extending into fall season. And so that is kind of what we saw this year. We saw some severe flooding events in Pakistan and in other areas of South Asia. That is something we have seen in the past during past “La Niña’s” so it wasn’t a big surprise that it happened this year in the present “La Nina.”


    Does global warming play a part in this?


    The global warming part of this is that the climate has been warming up and we know from how the physical system works that warmer air can hold more moisture. So as the planet is warming up, the ocean temperatures are warming up with it and the warmer ocean is evaporating more moisture. That additional moisture is going into the air; the warmer air can hold that moisture. When it's carried into a region where there is precipitation occurring, where there is storminess, you tend to see more intense precipitation. This trend of increasing precipitation intensity has been observed to occur in a lot of areas of the planet, especially over the last 30 or 40 years. So the fact that we are getting heavier than normal rainfall in this South Asia monsoon is something that you would expect to see, but the reason it’s been record breaking flooding, record breaking heavy rainfall is more consistent with the fact that we’ve had this background change in the climate.


    How do you forecast the future as far as this is concerned?


    The only way we really have of forecasting what’s going to happen in the future is with climate models that we run on super computers. These climate models tend to indicate that these extremes in precipitation would tend to get more extreme as the climate continues to warm because the air will hold more and more moisture as it gets warmer. That would basically continue the trends we have already seen. So physically it’s a fairly simple thing to understand and it’s a pretty basic thing that the models are able to pick up on. The models tend to continue that trend of increasing precipitation intensity on into the future.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.