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Historic Tropical Storm Fay Portends Atmospheric Anomalies Fueled by Global Warming

Posted Sep 01 2008 7:15pm

Tropical Storm Fay Clarifies Global Warming Future

News headlines surrounding Tropical Storm Fay were as much a study in contrast as was the storm itself. Reports of flooding and wind damage were accurate but the overall effects were unexpected. No fewer than 4 members of my circle of family and friends contacted me to ask how bad the flooding was. In reality, even though many areas near the Edgewood section of Orlando where Cat and I live were flooded very badly, Tropical Storm Fay was largely beneficial to the Kroehler household because of the foot of rain which our parched lawn needed desperately.

This apparent disconnect between meteorological expectation and fact is poised to widen broadly as global warming further destabilizes our atmosphere and our biosphere attempts to compensate for the millions of tons of pollution which we continue to spew each and every day. That, my friend, is arguably the most lasting and significant legacy of a storm which set new records during her historically long life.

Tropical Storm Fay entered the record books with no fewer than 3 shocking feats:

1) She gathered strength over land – while not constituting a large increase in wind speed, Tropical Storm Fay actually became more powerful after making landfall in southwest Florida, an event never recorded in the annals of weather history;

2) She dumped the equivalent of 6 months of rainfall accumulation on the central Atlantic coast of Florida in a single day, more than 2 feet in just 24 hours; and

3) She made landfall over the state of Florida 4 times in total.

Now, before the age of global warming, whenever the weather did something never before witnessed, the most common expression was, There’s one for the record books. Alas, because global warming has a direct effect on the frequency and strength of tropical wind storms, the record books soon will become mere anachronisms. So, if you have wondered how global warming will affect the weather or how life will be in a chaotic future when we pass the tipping point of planetary habitability, you need look no further than news reports and eye witness testimony from the Sunshine State as of August 2008.

Tropical Storm Fay was a terrifyingly unique and deadly phenomenon. In Florida, tropical storms and hurricanes seldom last more than a day or two but Tropical Storm Fay lasted more than a week. In Florida, tropical storms and hurricanes generally make landfall once or twice. Katrina only made landfall twice, once in the southeast and once in the far northwest. Tropical Storm Fay doubled that pattern. In Florida, tropical storms and hurricanes always lose strength once they make landfall but Tropical Storm Fay not only retained her wind speeds but even gained a notch or two on the anemometer.

One for the record books? Perhaps but, more importantly, one for a new global warming almanac. I lived through Tropical Storm Fay. She was something else and I attest that we truly have entered new territory. More and more, people will pay for the experience of climate change with their lives.

Fomenting the Triple Bottom Line

Corbett Kroehler

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