‘Our Atmosphere Is Broken’: US Tops Record for Hurricane-Force Winds in a Day

‘Our Atmosphere Is Broken’: US Tops Record for Hurricane-Force Winds in a Day

“The last Dust Bowl stemmed from degradation of the soil,” said writer and activist Bill McKibben. “This time it’s the climate we’ve upended.”

The United States on Wednesday had the most hurricane-force gusts ever recorded in a single day after an after an “off the charts” storm system tore through the central part of the country, bringing tornadoes and triggering widespread power outages, dust storms, and warnings of the climate emergency.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said there were 55 such wind events throughout the day, more than ever seen at least since current record-keeping began in 2004.

“This is just the kind of thing that happens when you’re in the process of breaking the planet’s climate system.”

“I’ve been doing this 30 years,” said CNN meteorologist Tom Sater, “and we’re seeing things today in the CNN Weather Center we have never seen before.”

Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power on Thursday, according to PowerOutage.US, with the highest number—over 230,000—in Michigan. The second-highest number is in Wisconsin, where over 147,000 customers are without power.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) on Wednesday also issued for the first time in its history an “extremely critical fire weather outlook” for the Southern and Central Plains during the month of December, and the Weather Prediction Center noted that dozens of cities were experiencing record-warm daily temperatures.

Tornadoes were reported in Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska.

The Weather Channel further noted:

More than 425 reports of severe weather were tallied up Wednesday, mostly in parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, northern Missouri, southern Minnesota, and western Wisconsin. That’s the most severe weather reports for a December day in the U.S. since at least 2000, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center (SPC) database.

The severe weather came just days after an outbreak of 41 tornadoes across eight states caused widespread damage in large swathes of the South and Midwest.

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More powerful, destructive, and deadlier storms will be the “new normal” as the effects of climate change take root, the top US emergency management official said Sunday after massive tornadoes ravaged six states.

“Incredible. And in December. Our atmosphere is broken,” said Minnesota Public Radio chief meteorologist Paul Huttner in a tweet responding to the announcement of the most 75-mile-per-hour or higher thunderstorm wind gusts in a day.

Sharing video of severe wind conditions on the ground Wednesday in Elkhart, Kansas, author and climate activist Bill McKibben said: “The last Dust Bowl stemmed from degradation of the soil. This time it’s the climate we’ve upended.”

Writing Wednesday at his Substack “The Crucial Years,” McKibben framed Wednesday’s storm system as an unsurprising outcome of the climate emergency:

It’s hard to overstate how hellish the storm now raging across the central plains really is: half the lower 48 is under a weather warning of some kind, as the National Weather Service describes a “historic weather day,” with tornado warnings extending farther north than we’ve ever seen in December. In Colorado winds as high as 107 mph swept down the Front Range of the Rockies. “Amid the high winds, blinding dust storms have swelled over parts of southeast Colorado and western Kansas, with wildfires erupting in Kansas and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.”

None of this comes as a great surprise—it’s been a record hot December across much of the continent, with temperatures in the 70s across the northern midwest. This is just the kind of thing that happens when you’re in the process of breaking the planet’s climate system.

The developments come after scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information said earlier this month that Earth had its fourth-warmest November and that the U.S. had its third-warmest meteorological autumn on record.


Andrea Germanos at Common Dreams