New floods in Pakistan kill 226; Maria heads towards brush with Bermuda

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:53 PM GMT on September 14, 2011

Share this Blog
33
+

A year after enduring the most devastating flooding in its history, Pakistan is again experiencing historic floods. An unusually heavy and late-lasting monsoon has brought torrential rains to Pakistan's southeast Sindh Province, which borders India to the east and the Arabian Sea to the south, and includes Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. The heavy rains began in the 2nd week of August, and have continued into the 2nd week of September, accumulating to 2 1/2 times more than average. According to Dr. Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, Pakistan's Federal Advisor on Climate Affairs, this is the highest 4-week monsoon rainfall total ever recorded in Sindh province, amounting to more than 37 million acre feet of water, "which is unimaginable." The "unimaginable" rains occurred after a 12-month period where the province received no rain and was under severe drought conditions. At least 226 people have been killed in the new flooding, 1.2 million houses have been damaged or destroyed, and 280,000 people made homeless. There were already 1 million people needing food aid and 800,000 families without permanent shelter due to last year's floods, making this year's renewed flooding particularly disruptive. According to the India Meteorological Department, by September 1, the monsoon usually begins to retreat from northwest India and southeastern Pakistan. That hasn't happened this year, and the monsoon rains are forecast to continue at least for the remainder of this week--well into the 3rd week of September. This very unusual monsoon season also started a week earlier than normal.


Figure 1. Rainfall during the 2011 monsoon season has accumulated to 8 to 12 inches above average over portions of Pakistan's Sindh Province. Image credit: Pakistan Meteorological Department. Before and after satellite images of the flood are available at NASA Earth Observatory.

Is there a climate change connection?
Last year, heavy monsoon rains were enhanced by a very unusual jet stream configuration that brought cool air and rain-bearing low pressure systems to northern Pakistan. The great floods of 2011--rightfully called Pakistan's Katrina--submerged one fifth of the country, killing 1985 people, leaving 11 million homeless, and doing a record $9.5 billion in damage. This year, the monsoon weather patterns were much different, but also highly unusual, resulting in yet another great flood in Pakistan. In an interview with dawn.com, Dr. Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, Pakistan's Federal Advisor on Climate Affairs, stated: "...climate change has become a reality for Pakistan. Clearly, Pakistan is heading for an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events which included frequent floods and droughts, and the need of the hour is to plan for the future changes." These events are in line with international climate change projections, he said.


Figure 2. Evacuations in Pakistan's Sindh Province during the summer 2011 floods. Image credit: Pakistan Meteorological Department.

A skeptic of Dr. Qamar's arguments might point to the fact that monsoon rainfall in neighboring India was not all that unusual in either 2010 or 2011, and that major monsoon flooding disasters in back-to-back years in Pakistan were probably just bad luck. However, the monsoon in India and Pakistan has undeniably changed in recent decades. In a study published in Science in 2006, Goswami et al. found that the level of heavy rainfall activity in the monsoon over India had more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1950s, leading to an increased disaster potential from heavy flooding. Moderate and weak rain events decreased over the past 50 years, leaving the total amount of rain deposited by the monsoon roughly constant. The authors commented, "These findings are in tune with model projections and some observations that indicate an increase in heavy rain events and a decrease in weak events under global warming scenarios." A warming climate loads the dice in favor of heavier extreme precipitation events. This occurs because more water vapor can evaporate into a warmer atmosphere, increasing the chances of record heavy downpours. In addition, heavy downpours preferentially occur during thunderstorms, and a warmer climate produces a longer period of time during the year when thunderstorms can occur, giving more opportunities for heavy rainfall events. During August 2011, ocean temperatures in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Pakistan, in the region between 15°N - 25°N, 60°E - 70°E, were 0.8°C (1.4°F) above average, according to an analysis I did of the HADSST2 dataset. This was the 5th highest such value in over 100 years of record keeping. During the July 2010 monsoon, this region of ocean was 1.1°C (2.0°F) above average, the warmest July ocean temperatures on record. The extra heat in the ocean the past two summers have undoubtedly contributed to the high rainfall totals in Pakistan by allowing more water vapor to evaporate into the air. Thus, we should expect to see an increased number of disastrous monsoon floods in coming decades as the climate continues to warm and the oceans off the coasts of India and Pakistan heat up. Since the population continues to increase at a rapid rate in the region, death tolls from monsoon flooding disasters are likely to climb dramatically in coming decades. Another concern is that climate change might lead to more failures of the monsoon--years when the rains are far below normal, leading to widespread drought and crop failures. This is a more dangerous scenario, since historically, droughts have been much more deadly than floods in Asia. Failure of the monsoon rains typically occur during El Niño years, so if climate change increases the frequency of El Niño, we might see an increase in the failure of the monsoon rains. So far, climate models are unclear on how climate change might affect El Niño, so we don't know how great a concern future failures of the monsoon might be.

References
Goswami, et al., 2006, " Increasing Trend of Extreme Rain Events Over India in a Warming Environment", Science, 1 December 2006:Vol. 314. no. 5804, pp. 1442 - 1445 DOI: 10.1126/science.1132027

Tropical Storm Maria headed towards a brush with Bermuda
Tropical Storm Maria is finally pulling away from Puerto Rico, and is headed north-northwest towards a brush with Bermuda, which will occur Thursday morning. Wind shear has fallen about 5 knots since yesterday, and is now a moderate 10 - 15 knots. This reduction in shear has allowed Maria a strengthen some, and satellite loops show the storm has more heavy thunderstorms that are better organized. The storm's surface circulation is still exposed on the storm's west side, though, and Maria does not have anything close to a complete eyewall built. Maria passed near NOAA buoy 41046 this morning, which reported a 1-hour period of sustained winds of 38 mph, gusting to 45 mph. An outer spiral band of Maria is just beginning to appear on Bermuda radar.


Figure 3. Morning satellite image of Tropical Storm Maria.

Forecast for Maria
A trough of low pressure moving off the U.S. East Coast a predicted to turn Maria to the north-northeast by early Thursday, and accelerate the storm past Bermuda. The trough will also bring high wind shear of 20 - 30 knots beginning late tonight, which gives Maria just a short window of opportunity to intensify today. NHC gave Maria a 32% chance of reaching hurricane strength by Thursday in their 5 am EDT wind probability forecast. Intensification will be hampered by the fact that Maria will be passing over the cold water wake left by Hurricane Katia today. On Thursday morning, Maria will be making its closest approach to Bermuda. Bermuda will see an 8-hour period of sustained winds in the 25 - 35 mph range, accompanied by heavy rain squalls, beginning near 4 am local time on Thursday. Bermuda may experience a few hours where the wind rises above tropical storm force, 39 mph, near 8 am local time Thursday. Occasional rain squalls are expected to bring 1 - 3 inches of rain to the islands. Most of the models show that Maria will brush or strike Newfoundland, Canada on Friday afternoon. Most of the storm's high winds will be on the right side, and Maria will be weakening rapidly then, so I'm not expecting the storm will do much wind damage. Heavy rains could bring minor to moderate flooding to the eastern portion of the island.

Elsewhere in the tropics
Even the busiest of hurricane seasons have lulls, and we're hitting one this week during what is traditionally the busiest week of hurricane season. The models are backing off this morning on the development of a tropical depression or strong tropical disturbance late this week off the coast of Africa. The NOGAPS model continues to predict the Western Caribbean could see the development of a tropical depression 6 -7 days from now, but the other models are showing little support for this idea.

The Climate Reality Project
Those of you who like Al Gore's efforts to promote climate change awareness and solutions may be interested in checking out his latest effort tonight at 7 pm local time, in all 24 of the world's time zones, via climaterealityproject.org. It's a live streaming multimedia presentation created by Al Gore and delivered once per hour by 24 different presenters for 24 hours, representing every time zone around the globe.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 1036 - 986

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

Quoting Grothar:
Many of you were very close and probably correct in some. However, there are new theories that they would venture out many times into the ocean and look for cloud patterns in the distance. They knew that clouds formed over land masses at certain times of the day. They would then follow the clouds. Instead of non-stop voyages. There were theoretically many short voyages first. I read it some time ago and found it very interesting. It was not dissimilar to my ancestors long ocean voyages. We live in a remarkable world of adventurers and curious creatures. Always wanting to know what is on the other side of everything.
Great, now back to the AGW debate and name calling. :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1035. DFWjc
Quoting Orcasystems:


You ever been married?


i would laugh but by girlfriend is too close to the computer...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1034. NoLa86
Quoting jpsb:
Nuclear Energy anyone?
the AGW crowd will not stand for nuclear, for the most part. why???
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1033. Dakster
Quoting jpsb:
Nuclear Energy anyone?


Ask Japan how that is working out for them...

All for alternative to burning coal/fuel for power and vehicles... Just can't flip the switch overnight.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1032. HOOTat
Quoting twincomanche:
OK but where did they know which way to go?


As someone else mentioned, they knew a lot about currents, reading wave patterns, etc. There also had to have been a high loss rate, but great chances are taken when survival is at stake.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:
The most interesting question is why would anyone get in a canoe and head off for who knows where with no idea if who knows where was even out there somewhere. Maybe we are missing something here.


You ever been married?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Thor Heyerdahl. Simple Norwegian name. Geez. LOL


I have read Kon-Tiki way too long ago (yes, I read too much. Why do you ask?) If I remember correctly, he was trying to see if Easter Island could have been colonized from the east, South America instead of the west, from Asia. Someone correct me if my memeory fails :)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I found it... hurrah :)
I couldn't find the main blog ;()
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:
The most interesting question is why would anyone get in a canoe and head off for who knows where with no idea if who knows where was even out there somewhere. Maybe we are missing something here.
They were looking for the land of milk and honey
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Perhaps I should reword my question. How did they know there were land masses that far away? I am being serious.


They just happened upon them?......
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1024. jpsb
Quoting NoLa86:
ELECTRIC = FOSSIL FUELS It does not solve the problem.
Nuclear Energy anyone?
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1276
1023. bappit
Quoting Grothar:
Does anyone have a theory about how the Pacific Islands were colonized over so many thousands of miles of ocean between them? Without looking it up on Wiki. It would be interesting to see what theories you may have.

My understanding is that Pacific islanders were able to determine the presence of land that was out of sight by studying the waves, watching the birds, clouds, seeing what showed up in the flotsam. They also had astronomical knowledge.

To illustrate their astronomical smarts--not that this seems exactly helpful for navigation though--the common story I heard was that they could identify stars in the Pleidaes that later day European astronomers thought were not visible to the unaided eye. That would take a lot of staring. Then again Oliver Sacks in one of his books describes one group of people that had excellent night vision due to a genetic mutation. That could account for seeing additional stars.

I don't think anybody knows how they found the Easter Islands. I expect they got lucky.

On the whole, it is a lot easier and more productive to just look it up in Wikipedia.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1022. Dakster
How about they guessed and eventually some got lucky? You don't really know or hear about the failed voyages where they didn't find land... Lost at sea and who would know?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1021. DFWjc
Quoting twincomanche:
OK but where did they know which way to go?


probably by following bird migrations...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1020. Grothar
Many of you were very close and probably correct in some. However, there are new theories that they would venture out many times into the ocean and look for cloud patterns in the distance. They knew that clouds formed over land masses at certain times of the day. They would then follow the clouds. Instead of non-stop voyages. There were theoretically many short voyages first. I read it some time ago and found it very interesting. It was not dissimilar to my ancestors long ocean voyages. We live in a remarkable world of adventurers and curious creatures. Always wanting to know what is on the other side of everything.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
1018. jpsb
Quoting Grothar:


I believe it was the Kon-Tiki, but that answered the question that it could be done. My question is how did they know the other islands were there. (He was Norwegian by the way)
Oh, OK so you are assuming the voyage was made on purpose. I am not sure I would agree, I find it more probable that rafts like the Kno-Tike (thanks for the correction) were used for short trips (fishing) and got caught in a storm or for some other reason could not return to land so they had no choice but to sail on and hope to find land.

I worded that poorly, sorry it's late and I am tired :(
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1276
Entada gigas

Sea hearts have a long and colorful history in fact and fiction. Early naturalists thought the unusual heart-shaped seeds came from strange underwater plants whose origin was shrouded in mystery. Christopher Columbus was fascinated with objects that drifted ashore on beaches of the Azores off the coast of Portugal. It is said that a sea heart provided inspiration to Columbus and led him to set forth in search of lands to the west. In fact, the sea heart is called "fava de Colom" or "Columbus bean" by Portuguese residents of the Azores. In Norway, a bitter tea was made from sea hearts to relieve pain during childbirth


http://waynesword.palomar.edu/plmay97.htm
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1015. HOOTat
Quoting twincomanche:
The most interesting question is why would anyone get in a canoe and head off for who knows where with no idea if who knows where was even out there somewhere. Maybe we are missing something here.

Too much population on a small island. They had to go.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Perhaps I should reword my question. How did they know there were land masses that far away? I am being serious.


Australia was colonized by land bridge from Asia, and I think New Guinea next from Australia. But the scattered islands were colonized by humans in canoes, who knew the patterns of clouds, waves, and wildlife that showed where the islands where hiding in the Pacific. The larger populations in Polynesia centered around the larger land masses and island groups, offering a greater variety of resources and fresh water streams and springs. The more people, the more explorations due to the need for more resources.

I have read somewhere that the used their testes as navigation instruments to help detect the current and wave directions. I don't own a pair of thise, so I can't say.men

I promise I didn't use wiki, but I have read Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond twice. Excellant book.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1013. DFWjc
Quoting NOCMOOD:


yeah, which makes being here difficult, since everything is ALWAYS going west.


WEST?

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1010. Grothar
Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
Actually Hieradal [sic] was incorrect although his boat worked.


Thor Heyerdahl. Simple Norwegian name. Geez. LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
1009. HOOTat
Nice link Shen. Thanks
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Perhaps I should reword my question. How did they know there were land masses that far away? I am being serious.
They were supposed to be great navigators, very brave. They didn't know they would hit land. Many probably died.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1006. beell
"There is no "i" in happyness"
~ Ernest
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting jpsb:
I thought the voyage of the Tiki solved that.
Actually Hieradal [sic] was incorrect although his boat worked.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1004. Grothar
Quoting jpsb:
I thought the voyage of the Tiki solved that.


I believe it was the Kon-Tiki, but that answered the question that it could be done. My question is how did they know the other islands were there. (He was Norwegian by the way)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
Quoting NoLa86:
if carbon is such a problem STOP USING IT. THE END
But how are we going to drive to work or school? No seriously though we need more cost efficient electric cars.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:
Does anyone have a theory about how the Pacific Islands were colonized over so many thousands of miles of ocean between them? Without looking it up on Wiki. It would be interesting to see what theories you may have.


Wave patterns. Polynesians were extraordinarily skilled at "reading" wave refractions and swells caused by land masses.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:
Does anyone have a theory about how the Pacific Islands were colonized over so many thousands of miles of ocean between them? Without looking it up on Wiki. It would be interesting to see what theories you may have.


Noah's Ark landed on Maui.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Why no. That is the Importance of Being Ernest. (sic)


and I bet not too many people got that Gro...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Perhaps I should reword my question. How did they know there were land masses that far away? I am being serious.

Hope? Accidents? Myths? I have to get away from . . .?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting NoLa86:
if carbon is such a problem STOP USING IT. THE END


Easier said then done.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
Coconuts


That was Michener's theory in the opening paragraphs. Be original.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
Quoting Bielle:

Wilde was used to that, and you might be surprised.
I am always pleasantly surprised by the depth of sophistication to be found (often lurking) on this site.

Speaking of things Wild
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
992. jpsb
Quoting Grothar:
Does anyone have a theory about how the Pacific Islands were colonized over so many thousands of miles of ocean between them? Without looking it up on Wiki. It would be interesting to see what theories you may have.
I thought the voyage of the Tiki solved that.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1276
if carbon is such a problem STOP USING IT. THE END
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting twincomanche:
Canoes.


Perhaps I should reword my question. How did they know there were land masses that far away? I am being serious.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
Quoting NOCMOOD:


Got me, sherlock.

Quoting srada:


calling me "sport" and assuming I am a man is a violation of community standards..LOL! I feel you have personally attacked me as well so I will be sending an email to admin letting them know that my character was compromised! I could care less what happens, I shall survive without posting on a blog every day but you feel free to bring down the ban on me, you have done it to so many others here at WU. You sir are solely responsible for ruining this blog!


Wow! Such power!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 1036 - 986

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26Blog Index

Top of Page

About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

Local Weather

Overcast
37 °F
Overcast

JeffMasters's Recent Photos

Lake Effort Snow Shower Over Windsor, Ontario
Sunset on Dunham Lake
Pictured Rocks Sunset
Sunset on Lake Huron