Intense Weather Sweeps The US

Jan 15, 2018 By Alexis J, Writer Intern
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Chilled iguanas are dropping from the trees in Florida, dust storms with 68 mph winds are forming in Texas, and entire neighborhoods are being wiped out by mudslides in California.

From Boston to Santa Barbara, the United States has been experiencing extreme weather conditions recently.

If you live in the Eastern United States, you have probably noticed it has been unusually cold this winter-- an average of 10 degrees Celsius below average, to be exact. This shift in weather is caused by a bomb cyclone that scientists have named Winter Storm Grayson.

The East Coast Bomb Cyclone

A bomb cyclone is defined as an extreme drop in pressure occurring within 24 hours. This drop in atmospheric pressure is caused by the intersection of warm and cold air. When this is combined with the rotation of the earth, strong winds form, rotating counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. As the air cycles, it leaves by rising up through the middle of the cyclone. When more air is leaving than is being sucked in, pressure drops rapidly.

Winter Storm Grayson was caused by a northward shift in the Arctic jet stream near Alaska. The Arctic jet stream is a barrier of fast-moving air that separates the warm air in the atmosphere from the cold air in the atmosphere. This shift that occurred in the jet stream caused a collision of the warm and cold air above the Gulf Stream and the United States.

As the storm moves along the coast, it picks up moisture from the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in several inches of rain and snow. People in Boston, Maine, and New York were on watch for severe flooding. Even states as far west as Wyoming have received up to a foot of snow. The storm caused power outages along the East Coast and over ten deaths.

The West Coast Mudslides

In early January, mudslides began occurring in Southern California, claiming more than twelve victims. The combination of almost six inches of rain with the loose soil caused by the year’s wildfires has wreaked havoc on the area.

Due to climate change, the Cascades and Sierra Nevada areas are not receiving as much snowfall as in previous years. California depends on the runoff from mountain snowfall as a water source. This lack of precipitation made the dehydrated vegetation perfect tinder for a fire.

Along with the Santa Ana winds which are hot air masses originating from the Great Basin, wildfires had an abundance of resources: oxygen, fuel, and a heat source.

These wildfires wiped out acres of forests that played an important role in anchoring the soil. Without the roots of vegetation to hold the soil in place, the soil is easily washed away by rain, causing mudslides. More than 100 hundred homes have been destroyed, but restoration efforts have already begun.

Sources: NYTimes, NatGeo, Vox, Livescience