Extreme Weather? Mother Nature Has Gone Mad

If Mother Nature were a person, she could be judged as having a breakdown.

The weather and climate these past weeks has been crazy. We’ve experienced the world’s hottest rain, a weird jet stream, red tide, unusually warm ocean water, raging wildfires and more.

It’s as if Mother Nature has lost her mind.

Let’s start with the jet stream, considering how it did something so unusual, taking the type of deep knee bend toward the Gulf of Mexico that almost never happens this time of year. In January, perhaps. August? Almost never.

But it happened in late July, driving up humidity across the southeast region with a strong pull of moisture from the gulf at the same time temperatures soared. Typically, the jet stream spends the hot summer resting in Canada, before dipping into the states beginning in the fall. Its deepest dives don’t often arrive until winter – the type that brings a rare snowflake to, say, Hattiesburg, Mississippi when cold air combines with moisture.

But that’s not what happened in late July.

“The jet stream has stretched all the way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico over the eastern U.S., helping to trigger the intense tornado outbreak in Iowa, and the persistent, torrential rains in the Mid-Atlantic,” Jeff Halverson, Capital Weather Gang’s severe weather expert, told The Washington Post. “Even veteran meteorologists with decades of experience are astounded by the extreme nature of this jet stream pattern.”

The result still lingers, since moisture that spilled upward into the states from this phenomenon is what’s agitating high temperatures from Chicago to Birmingham, Alabama, making for excessive heat.

Officials say more people take to the streets in the heat, and the mix can be lethal. This past weekend in Chicago, 66 people were shot and 12 died. New Orleans has also experienced an outbreak of shootings in the searing summer.

Crazy from the heat is what southerners say.

But that’s only the beginning. More unusual weather and climate aspects have popped up recently. Let’s take the world’s hottest rain as one example. It was 119 degrees (Fahrenheit) on July 24 in Imperial, California, when it rained, according to weather expert Jeff Masters, prompting the hottest ever rainfall in the world. The rain was so hot that one local resident reported it felt hard on the heart and “made it difficult to breathe.”

In Florida, toxic red tide, a harmful ocean algae to fish and sea life, has experienced a bigger bloom than normal. Inland, Florida has also suffered from an outbreak of cyanobacteria, in Lake Okeechobee "that spilled into rivers and canals carried the toxic green sludge east to the Atlantic Ocean and west to the Gulf of Mexico. Already distressed Floridians gagged on the noxious odor, and more than a dozen people reportedly went to local emergency rooms after coming into contact with the contaminated water," according to NBC News.

If that’s not enough, consider that the ocean water just off San Diego in California recorded its highest-ever recorded temperature last week.

Scientists have been recording temperatures at the Scripps Pier in La Jolla, California, every day since World War I, but the sea temperature registered at 78.6 degrees F on Wednesday.

Researchers said the record warmth in the ocean surface water is consistent with a “torrent of extreme weather in 2018” and an example of how “global warming will play out.”

“Like other climate change trends, background warming enhances the probability and magnitude of extreme events,” said Scripps oceanographer and Shore Stations principal investigator Reinhard Flick in a release.

The thing about extremes is, of course, that they can sway far to one end or the other. So, while the Pacific gets warm, the jet stream dips and the hottest raindrops fall, hurricanes in the Atlantic haven’t been a factor at all—and it's likely to remain that way this year. It’s the opposite effect of the other extremes, with a benefit being a light Atlantic hurricane season.

“The tropical Atlantic remains cooler than normal, and there is a relatively high potential that a weak El Nino develops in the next several months,” according to a recent report from Colorado State University. “The probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean is below normal due to the forecast for a below-normal season.”

In the Pacific, though, warm waters currently have three named storms and a potential fourth on the way. And there’s this: “Chances are high that we witness a rare event in tropical meteorology: the merging of two tropical cyclones. #Ileana and #John may both become hurricanes prior to forming a binary system…” tweeted Levi Cowan, a graduate student studying tropical cyclones.

It’s not just the oceans behaving strangely, either. The Gulf of Mexico had riptides so strong late last week in the Destin, Florida, area that more than 100 people had to be rescued, and beachgoers trying to get a last weekend in before school starts resorted to a human chain while trying to save struggling swimmers.

The same thing happened days later in Michigan when waters got rough on Lake Michigan.

Meanwhile, “catastrophic wildfires continue to ravage California” and one California community—Keswick—was burned to ashes in an unusual tornado of flames that rendered firefighters helpless. They call it a “fire tornado.”

It’s all part of a new normal, explained one environmental expert: Mother Nature like we have never seen her before.

David Magee is a contributing editor, a former newspaper publisher and columnist, and the author of a dozen book,s including How Toyota Became #1 (Penguin).

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