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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs