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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid