earthweal weekly challenge: STORMS


A storm brews: That is a phenomenon as old as the weather. But there are new, darker and deeper notes in that foment. The black crow’s shadow reveals a dragon.

As temperatures rise globally, evaporation is creating a soggier atmosphere. This means water—lots of it—is coming from the sky. Heaviest downpours have increased almost 20% since 1950, and by 2050, inland flooding events are projected to increase another 40%.

Last year’s spring flooding in the American Midwest caused more than $6 billion in livestock and crop losses. Nearly 38 inches of water fell, almost eight inches above average. Add all that to the next spring flooding season, and fresh disasters roll out. Already heavy rains have flooded portions of the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers in the South. In South America, recent heavy rain has caused flooding mudslides in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Honduras. Floods from heavy rainfall are worsening in Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran and Zimbabwe.

Climate change however also means alternating extremes; where flooding increases in one area, lack of water will become an increasing problem in others as drought cycles intensify.

Sometimes these adverse conditions roll through each other, as in Australia where record drought and heat created conditions ripe for wildfire, which in turn made conditions worst for heavy rains which followed, running off massive amounts of soil.

Winds are picking up, increasing the destructive force of storms. Storms flowing in formations which result in rivers of storm, derecho and bomb cyclones. The freak outbreak is becoming appallingly routine—sudden irruptions with devastating result. A hailstorm in Guadalajara in Mexico last summer dumped six and a half feet of hail pellets. A wild storm erupted in Greece also last summer, driving rain and hail with such force that six tourists were killed. Last month, a freak drop in weather pressure over the UK resulted in Storm Dennis, a storm so powerful it was classed as a “weather bomb,” with gale-force winds and flooding rainfall. And just a few days ago, freak hail ruined many crops in Rajasthan, India.

I remember some while back here in Florida when one night when a state-wide weather emergency was announced. Weathercasters on local network stations  all came on the air to announce that some strange weather pattern had coalesced into conditions which could erupt in tornadoes from Tallahassee all the way down to Miami. Storms were immanent and all were advised caution. Local radar showed heavy red swarms with purple highlights approaching our small town.  I went outside and witnessed a maddened sky, this huge vague swirling mass of cloud just above whose shape and menace were announced in constant flashes of lightning. There was the dragon of storm: And yet, most freakishly, nothing happened; the storm passed over and dissolved with all the other threat of tornadoes across the state. It was as if forming the threat was the purpose of the dragon, and that night it was content to fly overhead.

But the story can blow terribly the other way.  Another night years ago my wife had just gone to bed and were wakened by flashes and rumbles overhead. The cacophony lasted for ten or so minutes and then drifted fifteen miles east to the town of Sanford. There an F3 tornado struck down, raking through several trailer parks. Savage hands, lifted this then that, not that but this and not this and those trailer homes into the sky, killing 23. The morning after when I heard the news on my car radio driving in to work, I felt Biblically passed over, the angel in that great storm deciding between elect and preterit, marking doors in a ghostly language: him, them, not them but her, him but not her, not them, all of them.

Storms also occurs in the mind and soul and heart, in the brainstorm of inspiration and the fructifying cloudburst over parched place. Gifts from heaven are measured, panic is a flood. The emotional textures by which we experience storms—tempest, force, rage, turmoil, onslaught, blast, disturbance, gale, torrent—suggest Wotan’s fury and Thor’s hammer, the bolt of Zeus and the whirling madness of Lear. Sexual pleasure crescendos in what the Japanese call the moment of the clouds and rain. Daily challenges require us to pile sandbags we don’t know if have enough to last through the night.

How does climate change deepen, darken and magnify these inner swirlings? Selfishness is our common burden, but it doesn’t normally become murderous or suicidal until under the influence of Saturn’s leaden depression, thrilling but shredding manic episodes or the abandon of the drunk.

For this weekly challenge, explore the outer and upper manifestation of storms and/or the inner and deeper tangents and myths. How are they changing with a heating earth, what is the color and sound and resonance of air whipped higher and wilder and louder and fierce?

Note: I’ve passed over the topic of hurricanes and cyclones, saving them for a later challenge. They are angels of a different order and deserve separate treatment. Include them however in your own responses however if you wish.

— Brendan

4 thoughts on “earthweal weekly challenge: STORMS

  1. This topic should inspire some interesting responses! Storms have increased and become more sudden and random, it seems. The one that ripped through that trailer park hits home, as I have spent the best years of my life in trailers. One can imagine the terror and helplessness as the people inside were lifted then dropped. Yikes. Great write, Brendan!


    • Thanks Sherry — The Florida most people can afford lies in massive tracts of trailer parks. After twisters in ’98, the state toughened regulations for anchoring them, but they are still very vulnerable to hurricane which continue to grow more intense. The F3 tornado which ripped through Nashville last week shows that urban heat islands are less likely to steer more intense storms around – Brendan


  2. We have much milder storms over here, obviously, but it feels like we’ve been lurching from one storm to another this year. Wild winds every night, and flooding across large parts of the country. It’s grim here, terrifying elswhere.


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