Violent storms in the ocean off the U.K. and Ireland areripping off huge chunks of cliffs and hurling the rocks longdistances inland?distances scientists didn’t think werepossible. And a tornado has been seen at 12,000 feet inSequoia National Park in the U.S., making it the highestelevation tornado ever recorded. This is something new,since tornadoes are a sea level phenomenon.

Tornadoes need the dense, humid air of the lower atmosphereto give them their energy. This high-altitude tornado isadditional evidence that we can expect radical changes inweather patterns as the temperature difference between thestratosphere and the troposphere increases. The loweratmosphere, the troposphere, is retaining more and more heatdue to rising levels of methane and carbon dioxide, whilethe stratosphere is getting colder because the heat is nolonger reaching it. This is a major cause of the increase inviolent weather that has recently been observed worldwide.It is also the reason that forecasters keep underestimatingthe power of storms, as happened with Hurricane Charley,which was expected to decline to a tropical storm before itstruck the Florida coast. Instead, it became a Category 4hurricane.

In the North Atlantic, storms are creating waves over 65feet high, which are powerful enough to tear rocks offancient cliffs and throw them inland in places like theShetland, Orkney and Western islands in Scotland and theArran islands in Ireland. Some of these rocks weigh around50 tons. Since this kind of erosion is recent, it must becaused by rising sea levels and sinking coastlines, due toglobal warming.

Geomorphologist Jim Hansom says, “When I was asked toinvestigate the reason for hundreds of boulders piled upinland from [65 foot] high cliffs, I did not believe thatwaves could be responsible. The boulders were just to bigand too heavy. But now we can show it is occurring and at anever increasing rate.”

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Photo courtesy of Scott Newton

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