Summer in the American west

Climate disaster hasn’t thrown anything at us here in the PNW so far this summer – it’s been unusually cool and cloudy, which is fine with me. Elsewhere though it’s not so mellow.

Summer in the American west is off to an explosive start, with extreme weather events ravaging multiple states in recent weeks. In Montana, historic flooding devastated communities and infrastructure in and around Yellowstone national park and forced a rare closure. Further south, reservoirs sank to new lows, triple-digit heatwaves left millions sweltering, and wildfires ripped through Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska and California.

Natural disasters, from floods to droughts to wildfires, have always occurred in areas across the west, and it will take time for scientists to study the precise connections between events like the destruction in Yellowstone and the climate crisis. But it is clear that, in a warming world, combinations of factors are increasingly likely to align and turn routine events into a catastrophe. But it is clear that, in a warming world, combinations of factors are increasingly likely to align and turn routine events into a catastrophe. So-called “compound extremes”, where a combination of contributing factors come together, are on the rise, [NOAA Meteorologist Andrew] Hoell said.

You don’t want a drought and a wildfire and a windstorm all at the same time. No you don’t.

Or melting snow and heavy rain in a dried-out area.

Warming weather flushed melting snow into the waterways as a deluge pelted the [Yellowstone] region, dropping up to three months-worth of summer rain over the span of just a few days, according to an accounting done by CNN. Researchers with the US Geological Survey (USGS) and two universities had already sounded the alarm that an event like this was increasingly likely, publishing a report last year on how the climate crisis could threaten the park. Noting that average temperatures could increase by up to 10 degrees in the coming decades, they concluded that the region should expect intense dry conditions peppered with dangerous downpours.

The Dust Bowl will turn into the Scour Bowl. No soil left.

The unprecedented and sudden flooding earlier this week toppled telephone poles, knocked over fences, wiped out roads and bridges, and threatened to cut off fresh drinking water supplies to the state’s largest city, after officials in Billings, Montana, were forced to shut down its water treatment plant.

States in the southwest meanwhile have been having horrific fires.

States in the south-west have been hammered by dozens of conflagrations this spring, including a ferocious fire in New Mexico that became the worst in the state’s history.

The number of square miles burned so far this year is more than double the 10-year national average, and wildfires have already set records and destroyed hundreds of homes.

And it’s only going to get worse.

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