Science: Floods, Mudslides, and Climate Change

The Story:

Last week, both sides of the U.S./Canada border along the coast of the Pacific Ocean saw very heavy rains, floods, and mudslides. This seems to most observers not to be merely unfortunate weather but to be a manifestation of climate change.


The rains were caused by an “atmospheric river,” that is, a huge plume of moisture extending over much of the Pacific, southwestern Canada, and the northwestern U.S. The phenomenon is not new and has sometimes half-jokingly been called a Pineapple Express.

Scientists say that the Pineapple Express’ get wetter over time as the oceans get warmer. More water vapor in the atmosphere, specifically within these giant ‘rivers’ in the sky, increases the risks of serious disruptions when large portions of that vapor precipitate at once.

Strange New Worlds:

Bobby Sekhon, a Canadian meteorologist, says that many places in British Columbia were equaling or surpassing their average monthly precipitation within the span of a day or two last week.

One evacuee, Michael Reeve, said: “We say it’s a wakeup call, and then, how many times in the past have we said a big event is a wakeup call, and then next year we forget about that wakeup call and there’s another wakeup call?”


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