storms Zombie

Zombie storms are rising from the dead thanks to climate change – Live Science

Post tropical storm Paulette captured on Sept. 23. after it returned from the dead.

Post tropical storm Paulette captured on Sept. 23. after it returned from the dead.

(Image: © NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES-East Band 13)

Wildfires are burning the West Coast, hurricanes are flooding the Southeast — and some of those storms are rising from the dead. 

“Zombie storms,” which regain strength after initially petering out, are the newest addition to the year 2020. And these undead weather anomalies are becoming more common thanks to climate change.

“Because 2020, we now have Zombie Tropical Storms. Welcome back to the land of the living, Tropical Storm #Paulette,” the National Weather Service wrote on Twitter on Tuesday (Sept. 22).

Earlier this month, Tropical storm Paulette formed in the Atlantic Ocean and made landfall in Bermuda as a Category 1 hurricane, according to CNN. It then strengthened over land into a Category 2 hurricane, before weakening and dying off five and half days later. 

Related: The reality of climate change: 10 myths busted

But then, Paulette opened her frightening eye once again. She wasn’t gone. 

Paulette regained strength and became a tropical storm once more about 300 miles (480 kilometers) away from the Azores Islands on Monday (Sept. 21), according to CNN. The term “zombie storm” is new, and though the phenomenon has been recorded before, it is thought to be rare. 

But zombie storms are going to happen more often, said Donald Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And as with other natural disasters that have been intensifying in recent years, such as wildfires and hurricanes, climate change and rapid global warming are to blame. 

There has been an “extreme amount of heating of the Gulf (of Mexico), particularly in some of the ocean areas off of the Carribean,” Wuebbles told Live Science. The Gulf of Mexico, where many hurricanes gain strength before hitting the U.S., is particularly vulnerable to global warming because the gulf waters are very shallow — and thus heat up easily, Wuebbles said.

Atlantic Ocean storms typically form in warmer parts of the ocean near Africa, due to a combination of atmospheric and ocean conditions. They then “race across” the ocean toward the Americas, Wuebbles said. Hurricanes need warm water and moist air to form, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Storms grow if there’s a continuous supply of energy from warm water and air, and they weaken when they move over cooler waters or over land.

“If they’re not so strong, in the past, they would just die out,” over the Atlantic, Wuebbles said. But now, they reach warm water in the Carribean region and pick up energy again, he added. This is also true for storms that haven’t died out yet. For instance, about a month ago, Hurricane Laura strengthened overnight from a Category 1 storm to a Category 4 storm because it picked up energy from warm water in the Gulf, Wuebbles said. 

With a warming globe, “storms are likely to become more intense,” he added. That means the idea of “zombie storms” may be here to stay. 

Thankfully Paulette seems to have become a post-tropical cyclone once more and will die out soon, according to the National Hurricane Center

Originally published on Live Science.

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wildfires Zombie

Zombie wildfires are blazing through the Arctic, causing record burning – Live Science

Siberian wildfires 2src2src seen from above

A view from above of wildfires burning across Siberia this summer. This was the worst wildfire season on record for the Arctic.

(Image: © Annamaria Luongo/Getty)

“Zombie” wildfires that were smoldering beneath the Arctic ice all winter suddenly flared to life this summer when the snow and ice above it melted, new monitoring data reveals.

And this year has been the worst for Arctic wildfires on record, since reliable monitoring began 17 years ago. Arctic fires this summer released as much carbon in the first half of July than a nation the size of Cuba or Tunisia does in a year. 

That’s according to monitoring by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, the European Union’s Earth-monitoring organization. More than 100 fires have burned across the Arctic since early June, according to Copernicus. “Obviously it’s concerning,” Copernicus senior scientist Mark Parrington told the BBC. “We really hadn’t expected to see these levels of wildfires yet.”

Related: In photos: Devastating look at raging wildfires in Australia

Zombie fires

The “zombie fires” tracked by Copernicus were likely smoldering beneath the ice and snow in the carbon-rich peat of the Arctic tundra. When the ice and snow melt, these hotspots can ignite new wildfires in the vegetation above. 

“The destruction of peat by fire is troubling for so many reasons,” Dorothy Peteet, a a senior research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told Earth Observatory. “As the fires burn off the top layers of peat, the permafrost depth may deepen, further oxidizing the underlying peat.” 

The fires then release carbon and methane from the peat, both greenhouse gases that further contribute to the warming of the planet. 

But zombie fires aren’t the only cause for the rough wildfire season; lightning strikes and human behavior are also causing conflagrations. 

Parrington and his colleagues had previously tracked the vicious wildfire season of 2019, but were surprised at how the fires intensified this year over the course of July, Parrington told Earth Observatory.

Siberia wasn’t the only wildfire hotspot in the Arctic this summer. Northern Alberta, Canada has also been particularly impacted. The Chuckegg Creek Fire in northern Alberta, for example, burned more than 1,351 square miles (350,134 hectares) and took three months to contain, according to Global News Canada.

Fire season

The Arctic fire season runs from May to October, with the worst fires usually occurring between July and August. The 2019 fire season broke records for the number of fires and carbon released, with Copernicus reporting that in June alone, the fires released 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide.

The 2020 fires are already outpacing 2019’s conflagrations. All told, Copernicus estimates that between January and August, the fires released 244 megatonnes of carbon. That’s more than the entire nation of Vietnam released in 2017. The fires also release other pollution that has worsened air quality in Europe, Russia and Canada, according to Copernicus. Earth scientists are expecting similar conditions for 2021 and beyond.

“We know that temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing at a faster rate than the global average, and warmer/drier conditions will provide the right conditions for fires to grow when they have started,” Parrington said in a statement released by Copernicus, adding, “Our monitoring is important in raising awareness of the wider scale impacts of wildfires and smoke emissions which can help organizations, businesses and individuals plan ahead against the effects of air pollution.”

Originally published on Live Science.

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