The future of flooding

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 10:06 PM GMT on February 19, 2008

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Are storms getting more extreme due to climate change? That is a difficult question to answer, since reliable records are not available at all in many parts of the world, and extend back only a few decades elsewhere. However, we do have a fairly good set of precipitation records for many parts of the globe, and those records show that the heaviest types of rains--those likely to cause flooding--have increased in recent years. According to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 report, "The frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased over most land areas". Indeed, global warming theory has long predicted an increase in heavy precipitation events. As the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air. According to the 2007 IPCC report, water vapor in the global atmosphere has increased by about 5% over the 20th century, and 4% since 1970. Satellite measurements (Trenberth et al., 2005) have shown a 1.3% per decade increase in water vapor over the global oceans since 1988. Santer et al. (2007) used a climate model to study the relative contribution of natural and human-caused effects on increasing water vapor, and concluded that this increase was "primarily due to human-caused increases in greenhouse gases". This was also the conclusion of Willet et al. (2007).

More water vapor equals more precipitation
This increase in water vapor has very likely led to an increase in global precipitation. For instance, over the U.S., where we have very good precipitation records, annual average precipitation has increased 7% over the past century (Groisman et al., 2004). The same study also found a 14% increase in heavy (top 5%) and 20% increase in very heavy (top 1%) precipitation events over the U.S. in the past century. Kunkel et al. (2003) also found an increase in heavy precipitation events over the U.S. in recent decades, but noted that heavy precipitation events were nearly as frequent at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, though the data is not as reliable back then. Thus, there is a large natural variation in extreme precipitation events.

Pollution may contribute to higher precipitation
It is possible that increased pollution is partly responsible for the increase in precipitation and in heavy precipitation events in some parts of the world. According to Bell et al. (2008), summertime rainfall over the Southeast U.S. is more intense on weekdays than on weekends, with Tuesdays having 1.8 times as much rain as Saturdays during the 1998-2005 period analyzed. Air pollution particulate matter also peaks on weekdays and has a weekend minimum, making it likely that pollution is contributing to the observed mid-week rainfall increase. Pollution particles act as "nuclei" around which raindrops condense, increasing precipitation in some storms.

The future of flooding
It is difficult to say if the increase in heavy precipitation events in recent years has led to more flooding, since flooding is critically dependent on how much the landscape has been altered by development, upstream deforestation, and what kind of flood control devices are present. One of the few studies that did attempt to quantify flooding (Milly et al., 2002) found that the incidence of great floods has increased in recent decades. In the past century, the world's 29 largest river basins experienced a total of 21 "100-year floods"--the type of flood one would expect only once per 100 years in a given river basin. Of these 21 floods, 16 occurred in the last half of the century (after 1953). With the IPCC predicting that heavy precipitation events are very likely to continue to increase, it would be no surprise to see flooding worsen globally in the coming decades.

Jeff Masters

References
Bell, T. L., D. Rosenfeld, K.-M. Kim, J.-M. Yoo, M.-I. Lee, and M. Hahnenberger (2008), "Midweek increase in U.S. summer rain and storm heights suggests air pollution invigorates rainstorms," J. Geophys. Res., 113, D02209, doi:10.1029/2007JD008623.

Kunkel, K. E., D. R. Easterling, K. Redmond, and K. Hubbard, 2003, "Temporal variations of extreme precipitation events in the United States: 1895.2000", Geophys. Res. Lett., 30(17), 1900, doi:10.1029/2003GL018052.

Groisman, P.Y., R.W. Knight, T.R. Karl, D.R. Easterling, B. Sun, and J.H. Lawrimore, 2004, "Contemporary Changes of the Hydrological Cycle over the Contiguous United States: Trends Derived from In Situ Observations," J. Hydrometeor., 5, 64.85.

Milly, P.C.D., R.T. Wetherald, K.A. Dunne, and T.L.Delworth, Increasing risk of great floods in a changing climate", Nature 415, 514-517 (31 January 2002) | doi:10.1038/415514a.

Santer, B.D., C. Mears, F. J. Wentz, K. E. Taylor, P. J. Gleckler, T. M. L. Wigley, T. P. Barnett, J. S. Boyle, W. Brüggemann, N. P. Gillett, S. A. Klein, G. A. Meehl, T. Nozawa, D. W. Pierce, P. A. Stott, W. M. Washington, and M. F. Wehner, 2007, "Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content", PNAS 2007 104: 15248-15253.

Trapp, R.J., N.S. Diffenbaugh, H.E. Brooks, M.E. Baldwin, E.D. Robinson, and J.S. Pal, 2007, Severe thunderstorm environment frequency during the 21st century caused by anthropogenically enhanced global radiative forcing, PNAS 104 no. 50, 19719-19723, Dec. 11, 2007.

Trenberth, K.E., J. Fasullo, and L. Smith, 2005: "Trends and variability in column-integrated atmospheric water vapor", Climate Dynamics 24, 741-758.

Willett, K.M., N.P. Gillett, P.D. Jones, and P.W. Thorne, 2007, "Attribution of observed surface humidity changes to human influence", Nature 449, 710-712 (11 October 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06207.




Winter Flooding (Jmroh)
This is the result of extreme snowmelt and 4 inches of rain.
Winter Flooding
Yellow River Starke County Indiana (StarkeHistorian)
Kankakee Game Preserve, 10 Mile Road: The Yellow River crested this morning at 12.14' at the US35 bridge at 11:45AM. This was 2.14' over flood stage. The record is 15.3 Jan 1, 1991.
Yellow River Starke County Indiana

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151. NEwxguy
3:17 PM GMT on February 21, 2008
GM Storm,thanks for the synopsis,we are ready for some winter weather here in Mass.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
149. biff4ugo
2:14 PM GMT on February 21, 2008
PPS
We have had NexRad data available for watershed modeling for a couple of years now. It has been a great boon flood management and water quality modeling. Now we are getting evapotranspiration data with temperature over the same 2k grid. this is GREAT! We know what is going up, what is comming down, and what is running off. All we are missing is what is soaking in and we have the complete hydrologic cycle!
We will see how well it works with the models.
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148. biff4ugo
2:12 PM GMT on February 21, 2008
oops, some of the comments I didn't see said the same thing.
Thanks for confirmation
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147. biff4ugo
1:58 PM GMT on February 21, 2008
Dr. Masters
You usually do much better with your statistics that this, unless you are just showing normal statistics.
If 21 of 29 basins experience 100 year floods over the course of 100 years, that sounds very normal. I'm wondering why 8 of them didn't get their typical 100 year flood but chalk that up to natural variation.
That about half of them occured in the second half of the century is perfectly normal bordering on duh.
That isn't even an increase, it is just typical.
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146. Patrap
6:39 AM CST on February 21, 2008
Current NOLA radar Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
145. Patrap
6:35 AM CST on February 21, 2008
Navy Missile Hits Satellite, Pentagon Says
No Confirmation It Ruptured Tank Containing Toxic Fuel Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
144. KoritheMan
10:46 AM GMT on February 21, 2008
Severe weather is starting early this morning. Already some warnings out for parts of southeastern Louisiana. In addition to that, there's this, which is in effect until 11:00 AM CDT:



And it's expected to get worse tonight. Stay alert.
Member Since: March 7, 2007 Posts: 576 Comments: 20604
143. n0rt0n
10:58 PM EST on February 20, 2008
Interesting. CTV.ca is reporting the navy did indeed launch its SM-3 missile at US-193 defunct spy satellite...and hit it on the first try.
Happened during the peak of the luner eclipse at 10:30pm EST

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080219/navy_satellite_080220/20080220?hub=CTV NewsAt11
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140. hurricane23
9:35 PM EST on February 20, 2008
Took this pic about 30 minutes ago with wifes digital camera cause my HD camcorder is at work.

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138. tillou
1:20 AM GMT on February 21, 2008
Has anyone else noticed the T-storm activity East-Southeast of Gavleston Texas?

Nice little spin with some storms.

http://www.weather.com/weather/map/interactive/70070?from=36hr_maps&zoom=8&interactiveMapLayer=rada r" target="_blank">Link
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137. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
1:10 AM GMT on February 21, 2008
Tropical Cyclone HONDO ADVISORY NUMBER THIRTY-FIVE - Re-issuance of advisories
===============================

At 0:00 AM UTC, Tropical Disturbance 10R [1005 hPa] located near 18.1S 59.8E has 10 minute sustained winds of 25 knots with gusts up to 35 knots. The disturbance is reported moving west at 4 knots.

Dvorak Intensity: T1.5

Forecast and Intensity
=======================
12 HRS: 18.5S 59.4E - 25 knots (Perturbation Tropicale)
24 HRS: 19.3S 58.8E - 25 knots (Perturbation Tropicale)
48 HRS: 21.6S 56.7E - 25 knots (Depression se Comblant)

Additional Information
---------------------
The residual circulation of Tropical Disturbance Hondo has came back near Mascareignes Island. Low level circulation remains rather well defined. Main thunderstorms activity is present mainly in the northeastern quadrant for the moment. The system is tracking on the northwestern edge of subtropical high pressures. It should curve southeastwards today. Due to gradient effect, strongest winds associated to this residual vortex could reach near gale force winds up to 72 hours.

Although this system is weak and is not forecasted to re-intensify it should generated very disturbed weather over Mauritius on the 22nd and Reunion Island on the 23rd.

AT THIS STAGE, THIS SYSTEM DOES NOT JUSTIFY ISSUANCE OF REGULAR ADVISORIES.
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136. surfmom
11:59 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Looks like I might be getting rain - perhaps even a thunder storm - delightful! Gonna walk the dog sooner then later...
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
135. WPBWeatherBoy
11:50 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
so far very clear skies set up in west palm beach,perfect view of the moon, its always cloudy when theirs an eclipse
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134. surfmom
11:44 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Looks like I might be getting rain - perhaps even a thunder storm - delightful! Gonna walk the dog sooner then later...
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
133. Fl30258713
11:21 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
127. Inyo 8:49 PM GMT on February 20, 2008 Hide this comment.
I don't understand the link between air pollution and rain.. I saw another study that said particulate pollution from China DECREASES precipitation in the Sierras... so I'm not sure which is accurate, or if both are.

_____________________________________________

Here is an interesting documentary about Global Dimming at:
Link

It starts off talking about just after 9/11, specifically starting on 9/12/01, there was a major drop in end trails in the atmosphere because there were virtually no air craft flying over the US.
Later in the video it discusses how this Global Dimming effects moisture evaporation and how pollution changes how rail drops form and then how together these are hiding the more extreme effects of Global Warming. i.e. if we stopped all of our pollution emissions the global temperature would increase a lot because the sun light would not be blocked by the pollution.
It's about a 50 min documentary.

Here is the wikipedia discription:
Link

Global dimming is the gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth's surface that was observed for several decades after the start of systematic measurements in 1950s. It is thought to have been caused by an increase in particulates such as sulfur aerosols in the atmosphere due to human action. The effect varies by location, but worldwide it has been estimated to be of the order of a 4% reduction over the three decades from 1960%u20131990. The trend reversed during the past decade. Global dimming has interfered with the hydrological cycle by reducing evaporation and may have caused droughts in some areas. Global dimming also creates a cooling effect that may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming.

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132. sullivanweather
5:35 PM EST on February 20, 2008
Adrian,

Good news for the lake. Unfortunately, at a bad time.

Believe me, up here in the Northeast celestial events are rare, indeed.
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131. hurricane23
5:25 PM EST on February 20, 2008
Sorry folks the viewing for the eclipse across the south florida area does not look good.Radar shows precip developing and looks to be on cloudy side most of the night.

Lots of clouds!Front on its way to the north.

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130. atmoaggie
10:14 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
I don't understand the link between air pollution and rain.. I saw another study that said particulate pollution from China DECREASES precipitation in the Sierras... so I'm not sure which is accurate, or if both are.

There have been a number of studies by Texas A&M atmo folks showing an increase in lightning frequency downwind of major metro areas some of which could be attributed to abnormal near-surface heating, some to increased particulate matter (aerosols).

Also, work has shown that immediately downwind of extreme particulate sources, less rainfall will fall. This is called the over-seeding phenomenon (seeding coming from the old cloud seeding work). When an excessive number of aerosols are present, the available moisture is distributed to more particles (nuclei) and none coalesce into effective raindrops as they all started out much smaller than usual.

So, more avaiable nuclei can cause more rain, to a point, then a point is reached (based on the precipitible water vapor) where more clouds are created (of smaller droplets), but less rain.

Some details here.
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128. FarFetcher
9:06 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Here's part of the story: Milly et al., 2002) found that the incidence of great floods has increased in recent decades. In the past century, the world's 29 largest river basins experienced a total of 21 "100-year floods"--the type of flood one would expect only once per 100 years in a given river basin. Of these 21 floods, 16 occurred in the last half of the century (after 1953).

Now, wouldn't you expect 29 100 year floods after 100 years in 29 river basins? Then, wouldn't you expect 15.5 100 year events in 50 years? So, where is the great meaning to be found in this story?
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127. Inyo
8:44 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
I don't understand the link between air pollution and rain.. I saw another study that said particulate pollution from China DECREASES precipitation in the Sierras... so I'm not sure which is accurate, or if both are.

Also, as for the drought forecast... they have forecast a dry year for southern California every month, and so far every month this winter has near or above average precip. (Feb. may come in a bit below average, but could still hit average if we get an inch or two this week). The point is that this La Nina is not acting like other La Ninas, so I wouldn't be too confident in the dry weather forecast.

I would note though that that drought forecast indicates 'average rainfall' for so-cal from june-august. Average is zero inches, so we should be getting about that.
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126. NEwxguy
8:17 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
I'm all set for more winter up here in Mass.,still too early to think of spring,and don't forget Punxatauney Phil saw his shadow
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 878 Comments: 15739
125. hurricanehanna
7:22 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Hello to all. Any of my "teachers" around today? For some reason hurricane season entered my mind and I thought of you guys. Maybe it's being in the insurance business AND living in Southern Louisiana that keeps it on my mind. We have been having some interesting winter thunderstorms through here lately. Hope Mother Nature is getting it out of her sister early in the year!
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123. sullivanweather
2:20 PM EST on February 20, 2008
Bump, I think??
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122. atmoaggie
6:10 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Should any of you be aviators and/or use this data (from email):

SERVICE CHANGE NOTICE 08-01: CORRECTED
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HEADQUARTERS WASHINGTON DC
102 PM EST WED FEB 20 2008

TO: SUBSCRIBERS:
-FAMILY OF SERVICES
-NOAA WEATHER WIRE SERVICE
-EMERGENCY MANAGERS WEATHER INFORMATION NETWORK
OTHER NWS PARTNERS...USERS AND NWS EMPLOYEES

FROM: THERESE Z. PIERCE
CHIEF...MARINE AND COASTAL SERVICES BRANCH

SUBJECT: CORRECTED: CHANGES TO THE AVIATION TROPICAL CYCLONE
ADVISORY PRODUCT: EFFECTIVE MAY 15 2008

CORRECTED FOR THE PROPER ORDER OF THE REMARKS /RMK/ AND NEXT
MESSAGE /NXT MSG/ SECTIONS IN THE EXAMPLE.

EFFECTIVE MAY 15 2008...THE TROPICAL PREDICTION CENTER/NATIONAL
HURRICANE CENTER /NHC/ AND THE CENTRAL PACIFIC HURRICANE CENTER
/CPHC/ WILL CHANGE THE PRODUCT FORMAT. HOWEVER... MOST OF THESE
CHANGES WILL BE TRANSPARENT TO USERS.

THE FOLLOWING PRODUCTS ARE AFFECTED BY THIS CHANGE:

HURRICANE BASINAWIPS IDWMO HEADING
ATLANTICTCANT/1-5/FKNT/21-25/ KNHC
EASTERN PACIFIC TCAPZ/1-5/FKPZ/21-25/ KNHC
CENTRAL PACIFIC TCAPA/1-5/FKPA/21-25/ PHFO

THE FOLLOWING CHANGES WILL OCCUR ON MAY 15 2008:

1. THE POSITION AND INTENSITY INFORMATION FOR FORECAST HOURS OF
+06...+12...+18...AND +24 WILL BE CALCULATED FOR THE ROUTINE
ADVISORY TIMES OF 0300 COORDINATED UNIVERSAL TIME /Z/...
0900Z... 1500Z...AND 2100Z. PREVIOUSLY THE POSITION AND
INTENSITY INFORMATION WERE CALCULATED FOR THE SYNOPTIC TIMES
OF 0000Z...0600Z...1200Z...AND 1800Z.

2. THE POSITION AND INTENSITY INFORMATION FOR THE FORECAST HOURS
WILL BE DERIVED FROM INTERPOLATED FORECAST INFORMATION.

NOTE: THE VALID TIMES IN THE MESSAGE WILL NOT CHANGE DURING
ISSUANCE OF SPECIAL ADVISORIES.

3. A REMARKS SECTION WILL BE ADDED TO THE MESSAGE AND WILL
CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING CAUTIONARY STATEMENT: THE FORECAST
INFORMATION IN THIS PRODUCT IS INTERPOLATED FROM OFFICIAL
FORECAST DATA VALID AT 0000...0600...1200...AND 1800Z.

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121. Patrap
11:48 AM CST on February 20, 2008
LSU Earth Scan Lab Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
120. FormerAussie
5:43 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
From across the pond....I haven't found good links - no time - but UK evidence is also that winters are getting wetter with more heavy rainfall events. (Never mind summers - last June/July's storms dumped anything up to seven inches of rain on areas where an inch or two in a day would normally be regarded as a downpour.) Wouldn't you expect to break snowfall records in areas where winter temperatures are still below freezing, but a relatively warmer atmosphere picks up more water?
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119. TEXASYANKEE43
5:18 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
118. Patrap 5:16 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Thats U.S. Built SM-2 Missile scared um good..LOL



I watched that over and over and I'm still bustin' a gut. hehehehehe
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118. Patrap
11:15 AM CST on February 20, 2008
Thats U.S. Built SM-2 Missile scared um good..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
117. TEXASYANKEE43
5:04 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
112. Patrap 4:55 PM GMT on February 20, 2008The Dutch Navy Maybe should get the 2nd shot if needed



Did you see those guys duck when that went off? hahahahahaha
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115. thelmores
5:05 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
those Aegis cruisers are bad to the bone!
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113. weathers4me
5:08 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Our local weather station says only a 30% chance of rain Thursday for West central FL. Are they missing something? By looking at the above graphic, it looks like the rain chances will be slightly higher that 30% to me.
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112. Patrap
10:55 AM CST on February 20, 2008
SM-1 Launch Video. Link

The Dutch Navy Maybe should get the 2nd shot if needed. Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
111. sullivanweather
11:51 AM EST on February 20, 2008
At least it seems the Southeast is getting some decent, consistant, drought reducing rainfall.
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107. Patrap
10:25 AM CST on February 20, 2008
If we could get funding like this for Space Based weather Platforms for Observation and measurement, just think of the possibilities.


Sea-Based National Missile Defense

The Heritage Foundation report Defending America, A Plan to Meet the Urgent Missile Threat advocates a combined sea-based and space-based, global BMD architecture. The initial defense capability would be based upon the U.S. Navys twenty-two AEGIS cruisers carrying NTW Block II interceptor missiles, supported by a constellation of low orbit Space-Based Infrared (SBIRS-Low) satellites for launch detection, target tracking and engagement control. The Heritage Report focuses on a sea-based, global anti-missile capability, which they believe could provide the earliest protection against emergent Rest of World (ROW) ballistic missiles. The capability alone does not meet all the requirements of the JROC-approved NMD Operational Requirements Document (ORD). The ORD requires an initial NMD system able to achieve a high confidence, highly effective defense of all 50 states, against a simple, stressful, strategic ballistic missile threat.


Story Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
105. lawntonlookers
4:25 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
The Lake Erie that will launch the missile.

LAKE ERIE

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104. ShenValleyFlyFish
11:18 AM EST on February 20, 2008
56. P451 11:23 PM EST on February 19, 2008
Pattern confirmed ignore deployed
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
103. thelmores
4:20 PM GMT on February 20, 2008
Not sure if anybody saw this story from a couple days ago.... but it appears according to data, that the polar ice caps have recovered to "near normal" levels.....


http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/35266/Global-warming-It-s-the-coldest-winter-in-decades


"NEW evidence has cast doubt on claims that the world’s ice-caps are melting, it emerged last night.

Satellite data shows that concerns over the levels of sea ice may have been premature.

It was feared that the polar caps were vanishing because of the effects of global warming.

But figures from the respected US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that almost all the “lost” ice has come back.

Ice levels which had shrunk from 13million sq km in January 2007 to just four million in October, are almost back to their original levels.

Figures show that there is nearly a third more ice in Antarctica than is usual for the time of year.

The data flies in the face of many current thinkers and will be seized on by climate change skeptics who deny that the world is undergoing global warming."


I guess this explains why "global warming" is no longer the word of the day..... but is now "climate change"......

I will go back to my stance on all this..... we should work hard to clean up our planets air and water. This we can all agree on. But the debate about "global warming" and "climate change" is still just that..... a debate.

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102. Patrap
10:18 AM CST on February 20, 2008
Tonights Menu and weapon of Choice The SM-3 Missile and is Variants



Link to Enlargement Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344
101. Patrap
10:16 AM CST on February 20, 2008
Looks like winter is hanging tough. GFSx 10-day Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128344

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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.

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