Update on WP09 (#Okinawa), Floods in Germany

Tropical Depression 09W slowly organizes as it moves in the general direction of Okinawa. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast today is for a weaker storm tracking further south than yesterday. Here’s the “plain language” impact estimate based on their 5am ET forecast:

click to embiggen.

The objective guidance has it barely at hurricane strength at that time at worst. So it may not be more than some strong winds and rain on Okinawa. After that, the storm is likely to head for Mainland China, but it’s too early to estimate impacts there.

Elsewhere, a big weather story are the floods in Europe, particularly Germany (this link goes to Deutsche World live updates). The Netherlands and Belgium have also been hit hard.

A lot of the bad flooding is around Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany. The Ahr river flows through the town. . In looking at the period where we have really solid modeling for comparison with the climate models (1980-present), the peak total rain that ended up in the Ahr River fell on July 14th, and was 31% higher than the second highest value on record (which was in 2014). Worse, the Fifth highest daily value was on the 13th – and it was only about 5% lower than 2014. So two of the five highest total rainfall amounts in the last 40 years fell on back to back days.

The totals this last week were epic – 40% higher than the 2014 floods which came in at number two. Statistically it’s a well over 100 year event, maybe pushing a 200 year event. The rains on the 13th and earlier meant the soils were totally saturated (in fact soil moisture levels were at record highs on the 13th). So all of the water that fell on the 14th just ran off into the rivers and over the landscape. Also note that long ago (say 100 years) the flooding wouldn’t have been this bad with the same amount of rain due to development, impervious surfaces, etc.

This really was an epic amount of water. Fortunately it looks like there will be several days of clear weather, hopefully things dry out some before the next rains fall in 5-6 days. You’re probably hearing a lot about this being due to climate change. We’re in a difficult place right now data-wise. We are starting to see evidence of climatic changes that we would expect given anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere. Is this particular flood caused or made worse by human caused climate change? I think that’s impossible to say based on the data we have. But these kinds of disasters (floods, heat waves such as out west) are expected to become more frequent – and by the time it happens, it’s really too late to do anything except get out of the way. More on that in an upcoming post.

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