During the middle of August, portions of southern and eastern Louisiana were devastated by flooding produced by extremely persistent, heavy rainfall.
It is estimated that over 40,000 homes were destroyed. In some places, over 30 inches of rain (2.5 feet) was recorded in one day alone.
There have been several speculations and estimations of the amount of rainfall that actually fell through the region, but the general consensus is if you were to bottle all of the water up into one-gallon jugs, you would have about seven trillion jugs. Seven Million Gallons. Although difficult to compare to Hurricane Katrina, this is about three times as much water (that fell from the sky).
Since the Olympics were kicking off at the same time, we can compare Louisiana's recent floods to about the equivalent of 10 million Olympic swimming pools.
7,000,000,000,000 gallons x 8 lbs/gallon = 56,000,000,000,000 pounds
The rain had to come from somewhere.
Assuming that the clouds were at about 1000 feet off the ground, or 300 meters,
Work Done = Mass (kg) x Gravity (m/s^2) x Height (m) =
Work Done = 25,401,172,720,000 kg x 9.8 m/s^2 x 300 m = 7.4679448x10^16 Joules, or nearly 21 Billion Kilowatt Hours.
That's enough energy to supply nearly 2 million houses (given the US's 2014 average) with electricity for an entire year.
In reality, this rain was scooped up by evaporation, mostly from the Gulf of Mexico. all 56-trillion pounds of it was suspended in the air, and dropped over Louisiana by the energy of 74 quadrillion joules.
Now, like most men, I'd like to think I am pretty strong. I'm no body-builder, and I used to be able to lift more before I hurt my back. But, even in my prime, I was proudly a member the 225lb-bench-press-club, on a good day.
But, even my pride cannot fathom 56 Trillion Pounds, lifted into the air and then displaced over half a state. But, Job in the Bible (I think he was the world' first scientist, just a hunch) even said: "He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight." (26:8).
Well, they eventually burst and, undeniably, displayed how powerful our atmosphere is that I steadfastly believe God created. I'll put it this way...if anyone can create a machine that can suspend that much water weight, disperse it over that much area, in that amount of time, all without any electricity or gasoline to create 21 Billion kilowatt-hours of energy...I rest my case.
- Dan, the Weatherman
Dan Schreiber is a freelance meteorologist with experience