Experts argue about America’s hazard-prone weather - GulfToday

Experts argue about America’s hazard-prone weather

A residential cul-de-sac is covered in floodwaters after heavy rain in Chehalis, Washington. Reuters

A residential area is covered in floodwaters after heavy rain in Chehalis, Washington. Reuters

The United States, the largest economy and apparently a powerful country because of its military power, is also the most vulnerable country in terms of weather disasters. It is not so much due to climate change or due to America’s contribution to pollution because of its lavish living and careless industrial development. It has more to do with its geographical location caught as it is between temperate and tropical latitudes, oceans on both sides, high mountain ranges like the Rockies in the west and the Gulf of Mexico in the eastern part which brews storms and tornadoes.

North Carolina state climatologist Kathie Dello says that it is all about where the United States is situated geographically, and “It’s truly a little bit…unlucky.” According to Susan Cutter, director of the Hazards Vulnerability and Resilience Institute, South Carolina, that China with a large land mass like the United States and a lot more people does not face the same problems because “they (the Chinese) don’t have the same kind of clash of air masses as much as you do in the US that is producing a lot of the severe weather.” Victor Gensini, a Northern Illinois University meteorology professor, said, “It really starts with kind of two things. Number one is the Gulf of Mexico. And number two is elevated terrain to the west.”

The explanation for the volatility in weather in the United States is this: Dry air crosses over from the Rockies in the west and it clashes with the warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico. Of late, the meteorologists have noticed the phenomenon of ‘atmospheric rivers’ in the west, where warm and dry air stream coalesce and cause torrential rain. And on the eastern, Atlantic side, it is nor’easters in winters, and hurricanes in summer, and when they combine which they do then they produce super-storms.

And it being pointed out that if the weather across America is bad, it is worse in the south of the country. University of Georgia professor Marshall Shepherd, and former president of the American Meteorological Society, says that in the south “we can literally experience every single type of extreme weather event. Including blizzards, including wildfires, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes. Every single type.

There’s no other place in the United States that can say that.”

And the experts go on to argue that more people are moving to the south, and they are moving to hazard-prone areas, and that housing in the south is not made to withstand the extreme weather conditions. The argument seems to be that the spread of modern America has been a huge mistake, that it was made without any concern for the geography of the place.

Cutter says, “One of the ways in which you can make your communities more resilient is not to develop them in the most hazard-prone way or in the most hazard-prone portion of the community.” It is indeed a deep critique of the colonisation of America by the migrants from England and other European countries. Perhaps, climatologists and environmental scientists must go back and study the settlements of the American Indians, who lived for nearly a thousand years and more and study their habitat. Perhaps, the Amerindians had an understanding of weather and geography.

But the interesting thing is that America has survived and thrived despite the inclement weather trends as pointed out by the experts. What needs to be explained is whether there has been an intensification of extreme weather events in the country, and that it has to do with climate change, and that industrial America has contributed to the making of the dystopian weather.

Related articles