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Sparks

Super-Charged Clouds Are Dumping Rain and Snow on the U.S.

The rain may be over (for now), but the flood risk has yet to peak.

Snow in Iowa.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

A surface cyclone dumped rain on the Northeast overnight, leaving millions of people under flood warnings. Streets were submerged in cities including Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland; and Alexandria, Virginia. Washington, D.C. broke its daily rain record early Tuesday evening. The storm is also blasting states with strong wind gusts, and at least 15 tornadoes were reported in the South. More than 600,000 homes remain without power, most of those on the East Coast.

The rain is tapering off, but the worst may be yet to come. As National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Wilson told The New York Times: “The worst time for flooding is right after the rain stops.” It takes time for the water dumped by a storm to travel down from mountains and make its way into smaller streams and rivers, Wilson said. But when it does, those waterways can flood.

The National Weather Service says moderate to major river flooding could inundate parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast through Thursday. High water levels combined with wind gusts that could exceed 60 mph increase the chances of coastal flooding.

To make matters worse, there’s another storm on the way. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the Cascade and Olympic mountains, the first such warning in over a decade. That system will make its way east and is expected to “intensify explosively” by the weekend, bringing blizzard conditions to the Midwest, severe storms to the South, and more flooding to the East Coast.

“Much below normal temperatures along with gusty winds will lead to wind chills well below zero for many locations,” the NWS Weather Prediction Center tweeted. The cold snap will linger into next week, and more than 80% of the country could see below-freezing temperatures by Tuesday, Axios reported.

Isn’t climate change making winters warmer? Yes, the trend over time is for warmer winter temperatures with less snowfall. But “‘less cold’ does not mean ‘never cold,’” explains the Climate Reality Project. And when winter storms do hit, they’re likely to be more intense as global temperatures rise.

As Dr. Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist with the Woodwell Climate Research Center, explained to the Union of Concerned Scientists last year, warmer temperatures give weather systems “more fuel to work with in the form of water vapor and heat, more moisture, and as a result, these storms are dumping more precipitation.”

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Jessica  Hullinger profile image

Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

Sparks

The Electrolyzer Tech Business Is Booming

A couple major manufacturers just scored big sources of new capital.

Hysata.
Heatmap Illustration/Screenshot/YouTube

While the latest hydrogen hype cycle may be waning, investment in the fundamental technologies needed to power the green hydrogen economy is holding strong. This past week, two major players in the space secured significant funding: $100 million in credit financing for Massachusetts-based Electric Hydrogen and $111 million for the Australian startup Hysata’s Series B round. Both companies manufacture electrolyzers, the clean energy-powered devices that produce green hydrogen by splitting water molecules apart.

“There is greater clarity in the marketplace now generally about what's required, what it takes to build projects, what it takes to actually get product out there,” Patrick Molloy, a principal at the energy think tank RMI, told me. These investments show that the hydrogen industry is moving beyond the hubris and getting practical about scaling up, he said. “It bodes well for projects coming through the pipeline. It bodes well for the role and the value of this technology stream as we move towards deployment.”

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Sparks

Biden Takes a Side in the Solar Industry’s Family Feud

The administration is expanding tariffs to include a type of solar modules popular in utility-scale installations.

Solar panels.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The Biden administration continued its campaign to support domestic green energy manufacturing via trade policy on Thursday, this time by expanding existing solar panel tariffs to include the popular two-sided modules used in many utility-scale solar installations.

With this move, the Biden administration is decisively intervening in the solar industry’s raging feud on the side of the adolescent-but-quickly-maturing (thanks, in part, to generous government support) domestic solar manufacturing industry. On the other side is the more established solar development, installation, and financing industry, which tends to support the widespread availability of cheaper solar components, even if they come from China or Chinese-owned companies in Southeast Asia.

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Sparks

Vermont Is One Signature Away From a Climate Superfund

The state’s Republican governor has a decision to make.

Vermont flooding.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

A first-of-its-kind attempt to make fossil fuel companies pay for climate damages is nearly through the finish line in Vermont. Both branches of the state legislature voted to pass the Climate Superfund Act last week, which would hit oil and gas companies with a bill for the costs of addressing, avoiding, and adapting to a world made warmer by oil and gas-related carbon emissions.

The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Phil Scott, who has not said whether he will sign it. If he vetoes it, however, there’s enough support in the legislature to override his decision, Martin LaLonde, a representative from South Burlington and lead sponsor of the bill, told me. “It's a matter of making sure everybody shows up,” he said.

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