Flooding in Shenzhen, China. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
22 Jul 2021

A year´s worth of rain fell in a few days in China - Only days after Storm Bernd in Europe

"We are a experiencing much more intense climate impact right now than we could predict for the level of global warming that we currently have"

33  people have died and more than a hundred thousand were  evacuated from heavy rains causing floods in China's Henan province this week. According to the country's army, there is a risk that a dam in the area could collapse.

Streets and railway stations are under water in several cities and hundreds have been rescued from the water masses. Pictures on social media showed  subway passengers  waiting for rescue with water up to their chests.

In the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, it has rained as much in three days as it usually rains in a whole year. In just one hour on Tuesday, 20 centimeters of rain fell. Nearly 200,000 people have been evacuated from Zhengzhou, according to local authorities.

Nearly 100 million people live in the affected province. The authorities have urged the population to stay indoors due to the situation.

According to Chinese media, this is the worst rainstorm to hit the region in 60 years.

Chinese authorities have deployed military personnel to guard a damaged dam in the city of Luoyang. According to the army, there is a risk that the dam may collapse "at any time".

A 20-meter section of the dam has already burst, which is believed to be due to damage it sustained in connection with a storm earlier in the year.

 

Could be connected to the European storm Bernd

The wildfire situation in the western parts of the US and Canada continue to be catastrophic. The amount of wildfires are not yet at the level they were in 2017-2018, however considering it is happening earlier in the year,  the fear is that this year´s wildfire season will go on for months and greatly surpass those of recent years. Siberia is also experiencing devastating forest fires.

Almost all parts of the world has been experiencing some kind of unusual and extreme weather phenomenon in the last few weeks.

In the province of British Columbia, Canada, where only weeks ago experienced a historic heatwave claimed over 700 lives and destroyed an entire town due to a forest fire, evacuation is now in preparation for communities all across the southern interior of the province, affecting at least 17,000 people.

Hundreds of uncontrolled wildfires are raging in the province of BC, and the provincial government has declared a State of Emergency. This week, firefighters from other parts of Canada arrived to help, as well as firefighting teams from Mexico. The US is allegedly not able to help in any substantial way since neighbouring states all the way down the coast are experiencing their own uncontrolled wildfire situation. 

In the north of Finland, a historic heatwave with temperatures approaching 35 degrees Celsius  (95 F) has been affecting areas in the Finnish regions of Lappland which are normally not used to high temperatures. Long periods of drought leaves the area vulnerable to wildfires as well. Hospitals in Helsinki have been overloaded by patients seeking medical attention due to heatstroke and other complications due to the heat. 

Over 200 people died last week in rainstorm Bernd, which was localized storm affecting very specific parts of central Europe, most severely in Germany. Also Belgium held a National Day of Mourning on Wednesday July 20th, to remember and honour the 31 belgians confirmed dead and the 70 persons still reported missing due to the destruction caused by the extreme weather.

 

More severe local weather patterns than the climate researchers expected

Some scientists are now thinking there could be a connection with the polar glaciers melting so fast, and the recent extreme weather situations affecting many areas on the globe more or less at the same time.

Environmental science professor Johan Rockström,  head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, says that the world´s scientists have not been able to predict these these extreme weather patterns affecting so many parts of the world so severely in such a short time.

He describes the current weather phenomena as "shocking", and likely connected to each other. 

However, rather than blaming the extreme current conditions on the general warming of the climate, he refers to cutting edge research looking towards drastic changes in ocean water currents like the Gulf Stream, caused by the polar caps in the Arctic regions melting faster than expected. 

According to an interview in SVT.se, Rockström says that when the water current across the oceans are finding new ways across the planets, it not only creates new local micro climates, it also causes weather patterns - like local storms or local extreme high pressure zones - to stay in place longer over one particular area, rather than moving from one area to another. 

According to Rockström, this could explain why so much rain is falling in one small area, while others are getting no rain at all for long periods of time. And, more importantly, he stresses: All these weather phenomena are likely connected globally. 

"We are a experiencing much more intense climate impact right now than we could predict for the level of global warming that we currently have. We know CO2 from burning fossil fuels are contributing, but this is more severe than we thought. One very viable theory is the interruption of oceanic currents causing extreme weather behavior", he says to SVT.se. 

Photo Credit: (Above) Rainfall in Chenzhen, China 2021. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.