Tree Rings Show Modern Cyclones Are the Rainiest in Centuries

Floods Destroyed Their Homes—Now Insurmountable Debt Is Sinking India’s Women Farmers

Every month, Chhaya Patil visits a doctor to hear the same advice. “Don’t overstress.”

After her twentieth visit since floods in Western India ravaged her mud house in August 2019, she had enough. Be it joint pain, dizziness, headache, or breathlessness, Patil now buys a few painkillers and rests for two hours before resuming her 16-hour workday as a farmworker. She knows this is a warning signaling something serious but as she lamented to The Daily Beast, “Who will I talk to, and what should I say? This is what a woman’s life is reduced to.”

In the age of climate change, Patil’s story is increasingly common. The rise of recurring flooding events around the world put farmers at the forefront of danger.

Patil, who is in her mid-fifties, never faced these health ailments until the floods, which she called “mentally devastating.” Within just two days, the floodwater engulfed her village of Arjunwad in the Kolhapur district of India’s Maharashtra state. Her home was destroyed. The government gave her a compensation of just $720 after three months. “How can someone build a house in that amount?” she said. “I had to take a loan of $2,650.”..READ ON

Tree Rings Show Modern Cyclones Are the Rainiest in Centuries

Tropical cyclones like Hurricane Ida can cause severe flooding, producing disruptions, damage, and loss of life. Like many other types of weather, tropical cyclones and hurricanes on the US East Coast have become more extreme over the past several decades. Although there is some controversy over the extent of the increase in intensity, there is evidence that such storms are moving more slowly than in the past. This slower movement causes storms to last longer and produce more rain. However, because conventional weather records only go as far back as 1948, it’s unclear how unusual these slow-moving cyclones are compared to earlier weather patterns.

“As might be expected, tree rings are more representative of seasonal rainfall than of the frequency or extremity of individual storms. But the growth patterns clearly suggested less cyclone season precipitation in centuries gone by.”

A recent study addresses this question by using tree rings to reconstruct hundreds of years of seasonal cyclone precipitation levels. The studied trees, some over 300 years old, show that precipitation extremes have been increasing by 2 to 4 millimeters per decade, resulting in a cumulative increase in rainfall of as much as 128 mm (5 inches) compared to the early 1700s. The greatest increases have occurred in the past 60 years, and recent extremes are unmatched by any prior events.

Beyond establishing these reconstructed historical records, researchers are working with these data sets to improve forecasts of what this region might expect in the future…READ ON

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