With 12 people having lost their lives in the recent rains in South Carolina, I will resist the temptation to joke. I do wonder at the loss of life–Super Typhoon Soudelor here in Taiwan only claimed 10 lives. The mountains here experienced 900 millimeters of rain in a 24-hour period, far more than seen in South Carolina. Of course, Taiwan gets it every year and is probably much better prepared as a consequence.
The ‘dog bites Mann’ statement comes from the Mann himself as quoted in the Guardian: “This is yet another example, like Sandy or Irene, of weather on ‘steroids’, another case where climate change worsened the effects of an already extreme meteorological event.”
The Guardian also carried a counter view: “Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center, said in an email that “no single weather event can be attributed to climate change”.
If recent past serves as example we will now see skeptics offering rainfall records that show this storm is not the worst in record or even memory, charts of sea temperatures and winds that show no recent rise in temperature, etc. Alarmists will counter with pictures of the devastation and quotes.
The storm had dumped more than 18 inches (45 cm) of rain in parts of central South Carolina by early Sunday. The state climatologist forecast another 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) through Monday as the rainfall began to slacken.
The state’s governor, Nikki Haley, said parts of the state were hit with rainfall that would be expected to occur once in 1,000 years, with the Congaree river running at its highest level since 1936.
Wikipedia notes “While precipitation is abundant the entire year in almost the entire state, the coastline tends to have a slightly wetter summer, while inland March tends to be the wettest month. During the cold season, extratropical cyclones is the main cause of precipitation, while during the summer, tropical cyclones and thunderstorms forming due to afternoon heating are the main causes of precipitation. A lee side rain shadow from the Appalachian Mountains lowers annual precipitation across central portions of the state. Inland sections average 40 inches (1,000 mm) to 50 inches (1,300 mm) of rainfall, while near the coast 50 inches (1,300 mm) to 60 inches (1,500 mm), and the Piedmont receives 70 inches (1,800 mm) to 80 inches (2,000 mm) of precipitation. Winter precipitation is determined in large by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. During El Niño events, the jet stream is further south and east across the U.S., thus leading to cooler and wetter winters in South Carolina, while La Niña keeps the jet stream further north and west causing warmer and drier winters.”
I’ll chip in with the observation that South Carolina’s population has grown by 22% since 1990, the year after Hugo wreaked havoc in the region. There are more people there to affect.
This storm will join the Weather Catalogue composed of events that are unusual enough to make people wonder if human contributions to climate change also contributed to the severity of the event, something I explore at length in my recently published book. Answers are in short supply, which doesn’t stop any of us from pronouncing authoritatively on the subject.
I won’t pass judgment today. Instead, I’ll leave you with the very best song about rain in the American South. It’s not South Carolina, but it fits.