An unusually powerful La Nina system is bringing extraordinary drought to a large section of the southwest, setting off wildfires across Texas and into Arizona. Meanwhile, extraordinary weather fronts are creating hundreds of tornadoes along with floods and hail through the Carolinas, Virginia, Arkansas and Oklahoma. In Pakistan, temperatures of up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit are making the news. While there’s no way to ascertain whether these particular events are related to overall climate change, global warming certainly has the potential to create more intense weather systems including extreme flooding and drought.
According to The New York Times, “Wildfires have burned about 1.5 million acres in Texas since January, egged on by a drought that federal forecasters say is the worst to hit the state in 45 years. ” The Times quotes David Brown, director of climate services for NOAA’s Southern Region, as saying “This really is a historical climate event affecting our region.”
The map of current conditions maintained by the U.S. Drought Monitor shows more than half of the state colored red — indicating an “extreme” drought, expected to recur every 20 to 50 years — or maroon — indicating an “exceptional” drought seen every 50 to 100 years. The “extreme” drought also stretches west, into southern New Mexico and Arizona, and east, into southern Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Panhandle, western Louisiana and southern Arkansas.
According to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, the recent weather system generated 243 tornadoes in 13 states in three days, from April 14-16.
Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia have all declared a state of emergency. As can be seen in the map to the left, some areas actually received 16 inches of rain in just 72 hours.
While extreme weather hits the United States, Pakistan and India are experiencing an intense heat wave, with temperatures hitting 47 degrees centigrade (115 Fahrenheit). Major weather events including both drought and flood are common in Pakistan; a recent Earthzine.org article describes the nation’s weather issues and possible solutions.