I was reminded this week of the winter’s polar vortex outbreak suffered by Minnesotans, when we measured more than five inches of rain in a few days in our St. Paul backyard. “Hydro vortex,” I named it, and sent a short text with that new word to award-winning Minnesota Public Radio chief meteorologist Paul Huttner, who used it in his recent post on the subject. Coincidentally, Paul Huttner (right) spoke at last night’s Climate, Clean Water, and Clean Energy forum at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota.
This hydro vortex made for a bad weather week (check out the headlines from North Carolina, New York, and Florida), one we can expect more frequently if we don’t act to curb carbon pollution. This spring’s reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that no person on earth will be immune from climate change. Climate scientists have made clear that carbon pollution dumped without limit is adding energy to the atmosphere, increasing the likelihood of what they call extreme weather. I call it expensive weather.
The National Climate Assessment (NCA), due out on Tuesday, will include sections on Midwestern impacts and the impact on our water resources. The draft report included this graphic highlighting that Minnesota and surrounding states have already seen a big increase in heavy downpours.
In Minnesota and much of the lower 48 states this winter, we felt the harsh effects of the polar vortex. Normally, the vortex spins far to our north, but when the westerly winds weaken, significant cold outbreaks plague us much farther south.
Unfortunately, new weather patterns inspire creative language. We need to plan for more extreme weather to minimize its costs, while supporting national and state action to cut the carbon pollution that’s causing climate change. (Want to learn more? Register for a free webinar with J. Drake Hamilton on May 21.)