I want to cross-post parts of an excellent article by CCAN’s Mike Tidwell. There have been many outages in the Washington DC region, and lawmakers have started saber-rattling at PEPCO, one of the local utilities for their inability to keep the lights on. As Tidwell rightly points out, the outages are predominantly coming from extreme weather that is a sign of increased precipitation from a warming planet.
“A hotter planet also means more evaporation of ocean water. And a hotter atmosphere can hold more of that water as vapor in the air. It’s basic physics. And what goes up must come down. It’s not our imagination that rainstorm intensity is rising in our region. In a study released last March, scientists examined precipitation patterns from Maine to New Jersey over the past 60 years. The study revealed an amazing uptick in multi-inch rain events across the region, with strong evidence pointing to rising temperatures as a key culprit.
Trends are what are important here, and Pepco itself has identified an unsettling pattern this summer. Unusually high winds, it says, have repeatedly assaulted trees whose roots are themselves anchored in unusually loose and soft soil thanks to the “anomalously” high rainfall this summer. So branches and trunks are coming down at very high rates. Hmmmm.
But what about the snowfall last winter? The power went out twice due to extreme white stuff. Global warming? How? Well, first, we didn’t set records for cold temperatures last winter. Not even close. What we did do was shatter records for precipitation in the form of snow. Again, an overall warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, and significant snowfall events are on the upswing in the United States even as temperatures rise significantly. It’s all the extra water in the air. Since 1970, global warming has added at least four percent more moisture to the atmosphere, according to studies.”
“It’s finally time to come out of the dark on severe weather. If Pepco is to blame for anything, it is this: the company invests woefully insufficient resources into solar and wind power. The same applies to all the region’s utilities. .
Better service means more than rapid repair crews. It means better energy flowing through the wires, rain or shine.”