Hurricane Ida Comes on the Heel of the Massive Heat Dome in the Central U.S.

Hurricane IDA made landfall on the Louisiana coast. The Governor of Louisiana announced yesterday that IDA would be one of the strongest hurricanes in the last 70 years. Now, note the satellite map of the USA. Except for an elongated cloud inland roughly above the area of Kansas, the entire U.S. is entirely cloud-free. There is massive Ida. Other than that,  thin layers of clouds bring just a few millimeters of precipitation elsewhere.


Hurricane IDA

photo: NASA

The central U.S. states undergo increasing water scarcity, depleted groundwater levels, and a lack of soil moisture. These areas are very dry, and the fertility of soils in these areas is lower precisely due to a lack of water. This area needs to conserve more water. At the same time, we need to reduce rainfall where it rains a lot. The question is whether this can be realistically achieved?

We can explain this with the example of the current hurricane, which is currently threatening Louisiana. The Louisiana coast is attacked by a concentrated atmospheric “propeller” in the center of which the forecasting models predict rainfall 16-20 inches (400-500 mm). This deluge will bring billions of dollars in damage to both private and public property.Every year, American hurricanes are becoming more and more dangerous, and atmospheric scientists know that global warming ramps up the amount of precipitation from these storms. Hurricanes are becoming more deadly, The question is, what is causing the climate change, and can we find more culprits other than the unfortunate CO2? If we understand the cause of this phenomenon, we can find a solution.

There is an explanation! It is time to look at the correlation between the Atlantic hurricane season and the recent heat dome over the U.S. interior. NOAA describes a heat dome as a situation when a mass of hot air gets trapped under an atmospheric layer of high pressure and accumulates the heat like a domed pot lid. Like all previous hurricanes, hurricane Ida has grown against the backdrop of a vast heat island or heat dome, producing sensible heat and high air pressure in the U.S. interior, which will not allow moist air masses further inland. Therefore, the hurricanes spill all the moisture on the coast and, with their abundance, cause extreme flooding and bring extensive damages. 


I dare to say that if the U.S. interior states conserve water and retaine water throughout the year, the land would produce more latent heat and less sensible heat. Then, frontal low-pressure systems from the Atlantic would spill at least TEN times over a larger area than they are now. In the case of Hurricane IDA, precipitation would be barely 50 mm. We need more soil moisture and evapotranspiration in the U.S. interior ecosphere if we want weaker and less dangerous hurricanes. That would translate to more minor economic damages and a resilient landscape with resilient crop harvest.


It is not a utopia. It is possible to achieve the formation of clouds with less intensity over a larger area of their development if we understand that we can fix the hydrological cycles over land that we broke. Since NASA launched their Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite in 2014, scientists began to measure the global data on water balance and soil moisture. Precipitation is the best observed hydrologic variable, but precipitation alone cannot adequately characterize a drought. Data show that the land and watershed alterations in the Central U.S. states induced changes in the agro-hydrologic measurements, such as lower evapotranspiration rates, the aridity of the soil, and the increase in the land surface temperatures. My colleagues and I published the New Water Paradigm for the recovery of climate in 2007 and described the small water cycles and evapotranspiration. If people understand that damaged and dry landscapes affect the formation of clouds over a small area and cause flash floods and deluges, we can have a roadmap for recovery. All we have to do is restore, i.e., revitalize the damaged landscape to absorb more rainwater. Then we will live in a more resilient and safer environment. To learn more, visit our restoration methods in Handbook of Climate Change Management. 


Author: © Michal Kravčík

Translation: Zuzana Mulkerin

Photo: NASA