Guest: Dr. Daniel Swain of UCLA and Nat'l Center for Atmospheric Research; Also: 850 still missing on Maui; Trump cancels 'exoneration' news conference, chickens out of debate, negotiates surrender in GA...
By Brad Friedman on 8/21/2023, 6:06pm PT  

Welp, as discussed on today's BradCast we, personally, managed to dodge the worst of the weekend's Hurricane Hilary (downgraded to Post-Tropical Cyclone shortly after landfall) by dint of a complete coincidence. Thanks to many for the well-wishes. Tune in for more details on that today. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]

But much of the U.S. Southwest was not as lucky over the past 24 to 48 hours, with parts of California seeing a year's worth of rain, in some cases, in just over a day. Our coverage begins with a focus on our hometown of Los Angeles, which saw the center of the storm pass over downtown at 7pm on Sunday. The desert areas, for example, Palm Springs, fared far worse. And now many in Nevada are facing the storm, which could continue to drop massive amounts of precip as far as southeastern Oregon and west-central Idaho.

Tropical storms are wildly unusual for the state of California. The last time one one made direct landfall in the Golden State was 1939, prior to the modern National Weather Service warning system and naming convention for tropical storms and hurricanes. All of which begs the question today: Was this storm --- which we tried to light a siren about on our final show last week, when few seemed to be noticing it --- a fluke? Or is it emblematic of our climate changed future?

We've got just the person to ask about that today. We are delighted to be joined by climate scientist DR. DANIEL SWAIN, of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. He also serves as a Research Fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and at The Nature Conservancy of California.

"This is definitely a historical event that we saw unfold this past weekend in Southern California," he tells me. The worst of it, debris flows, flash flooding, was "mostly in the places that we thought they would be most likely. Largely, this played out pretty close to forecast. This is something that was pretty well predicted."

The question of whether Hilary was a fluke or our future is a complicated one, with a multilayered answer that Swain explains with a great deal of clarity. At least with as much as can be had given what he describes as a huge lack of research of the phenomenon of West Coast tropical storms. Most such storms that form in the Eastern Pacific head out to sea toward Hawaii. But not Hilary. Why did that happen this time exactly? And can we expect more of them?

"We're all living in the context of a changed climate," Swain says as we discuss the now 4 or 5 (depending on how you count them) storms brewing in the Atlantic --- "a conga line of potential hurricanes" --- during what could end up being a very busy peak of the storm season on that side of the country. "We've never had the combination of record warm oceans plus a very strong developing El Nino event in recorded history."

On whether scientists have been low-balling the effects of climate change for years, Swain concedes: "I think we did historically underestimate how much that [warming] was going to disrupt ecosystems, ecologies and human systems --- cities, populations all around the world."

"We are starting to see the limits of our adaptability already. And it's only going to get harder with additional warming," he asserts. "The fact that the water vapor-holding capacity of the atmosphere is exponential with warming, means that the next degree of warming is going to bring about bigger changes than the last degree."

Please tune in for a very enlightening conversation about all of this.

Then, we close today first with a grim update from Maui, where the County's Mayor has announced the official death toll from their recent wildfires (fueled in part by the gusting winds of a different Pacific cyclone) now stands at 114, with some 850 people still unaccounted for.

And finally, a mercifully short update on the various weekend travails of our disgraced, four-time indicted former President and GOP front-runner for their 2024 Presidential nomination. Donald Trump cancelled his promised Monday morning press conference when he vowed last week to present an "Irrefutable REPORT" on "Election Fraud" in Georgia in 2020, which would be "CONCLUSIVE" and offer "complete EXONERATION" following his criminal indictment on RICO charges [PDF] last week. Apparently, there is no such report. He also announced over the weekend that he was chickening out from participation in this week's GOP Presidential Primary debate in Milwaukee, and most others to follow. And, on Monday afternoon, his attorneys negotiated a $200,000 bond for his release after his surrender this week in Fulton County, GA, where he is accused of 13 criminal felony counts related to his attempted theft of the 2020 election in the Peach State...


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