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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs