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Water, Water, Everywhere: 2011’s Floods

Massive floods struck three countries this week: Australia, Brazil, and Sri Lanka. Much of the Australian Province of Queensland, which occupies a large fraction of Australia's eastern region, was under water following weeks of unusually heavy rains. Brisbane, the Provincial capital and Australia's third-largest city, suffered major flooding, and damages are expected to total in the billions of dollars. Meanwhile, in Brazil, hundreds were killed when mudslides struck areas north of Rio de Janeiro. Lastly, Sri Lanka, located off the southern tip of India, also suffered flooding this week, with dozens killed and thousands of people displaced. These flooding events have come in the wake of what was earth's wettest year on record.

At least in the case of Australia, the flooding appears to be caused by a mixture of an unusually potent La Niña episode in the Pacific Ocean as well as, some scientists say, the influence of global climate change. Both of these factors may be contributing to the unusually severe rainy season there by boosting sea surface temperatures, thereby creating more thunderstorm activity.