Friday, May 2, 2014

Climate Change Induced Flooding may have Caused the Gas Explosion at the Pensacola Jail

Flooding may have caused the deadly natural gas explosion at the Escambia County Central Booking Facility in Pensacola, Florida. At this point 2 people are known to have been killed, 3 are missing and at least 180 others have been injured. The powerful blast which caused the building to partially collapse occurred just before midnight on April 30th.

Historic flooding has inundated the Pensacola area as well as much of the South-East. Pensacola picked up a record breaking 15.55 inches of rain on Tuesday. Over the course of a few days, the area received nearly 25 inches of rain. In one hour alone, 6 inches of rain fell in Pensacola.

Extreme rainfall like that which occurred in Pensacola, is increasingly common and it will become even more common as the Earth warms. Greenhouse gases cause the planet to warm, this causes more evaporation and thus more moisture in the atmosphere. The result is more heavy downpours and deluges.

As Kenneth Kunkel, a climate scientist with the National Climatic Data Center, explained to Climate Central, “There’s no place in the U.S. where the models aren’t, on average, showing an increase in extreme precipitation.” Other recent examples of torrential rains that may have beeen induced by climate change include the "Biblical" rains that fell in Colorado last year.

There are reports that the jail in Pensacola was flooded during the heavy rains but it is not known at this time whether the flooding was a factor in the explosion.

It is possible that the torrential rains caused a leak in the gas pipeline near the Escambia County jail. Last June flooding in Alberta caused a similar gas leak in the community of Turner Valley.

The combination of flooding and a natural gas explosion illustrates one of the many ways in which climate change can combine with fossil fuels to cause death and destruction.

It is widely known that American natural gas pipelines are leaking across much of the country. Recently such a leak led to a deadly gas explosion in Harlem.

Fossil fuels are not only the leading cause of climate change, they are also commonly a catalyst in deadly disasters.

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