Huge areas of drought spread across the United States, while heat and wildfires add to climate woes.
More than 2,000 heat records were broken last week around the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)…
“You know, as time goes on, we always expect to set new records, but there should be an equal number of highs and lows. And in the 1950s and the ’60s and ’70s, that was the case. But by the time we got to the 2000s, the ratios of highs to lows was about two-to-one and this year so far it’s running at about a ratio of ten-to-one. And so clearly this is just not natural variability anymore.”
More than three quarters of the area of the lower 48 states is in drought and dry conditions, apparently the most since weekly detailed drought mapping began in 2000. The National Drought Monitor map and analysis as of July 3, by the National Drought Mitigation Center, shows areas suffering “exceptional drought” to “abnormally dry” conditions in every state except Vermont and Maine. Areas of “extreme” and “exceptional” drought range from the Four Corners in the Southwest and across most of Colorado and western Kansas, in the Ohio River valley, and across Georgia and adjoining southern states. The area affected by drought and abnormal dryness is double what it was in the blazing summer of 2011 (although less area now is in the most extreme categories experienced across the SW last year).
According to an email response from Brad Rippey of the US Department of Agriculture, it appears that “contiguous U.S. records have been set for the portion of the Lower 48 in drought…. Of course, this is a short data set, from 2000 to present.” Rippey reported that this week’s 76.33 percent of the lower 48 in drought beats “the former record of 71.85% … set on July 23, 2002.” Including Hawaii and Alaska, which also have dry conditions, the 50 states are more than 70 percent in drought/abnormally dry conditions now.
Over the past century heat waves and droughts were the greatest cause of death from weather events in the US. More than 15,000 people were killed in the 1980 and 1988 droughts. Until Hurricane Katrina, droughts were also the most expensive disasters. Current dryness does not yet compare with the widespread severity of droughts in the 1930s, 1950s and 1980s. Furthermore, droughts in North American pre-history were much worse: Research by scientists at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory revealed “unprecedented megadroughts over the past millennium that clearly exceed any found in the instrumental records.” North American droughts appear tied to Pacific Ocean temperatures and the ENSO cycle, which are affected by and can accentuate climate change effects. Current trends show more droughts and heatwaves are occurring worldwide.
The drought today is both a symptom of climate-driven moisture changes and a contributing cause of record elevated temperatures and wildfire. In these combined events we are seeing the kinds of effects of climate change which have long been predicted by accepted atmospheric science. Speaking on NPR on July 4, Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said these are the “consequences of the climate change influence that has exacerbated the drought and the heat waves.” Speaking of the record high temperatures, Trenberth said, “You know, as time goes on, we always expect to set new records, but there should be an equal number of highs and lows. And in the 1950s and the ’60s and ’70s, that was the case. But by the time we got to the 2000s, the ratios of highs to lows was about two-to-one and this year so far it’s running at about a ratio of ten-to-one. And so clearly this is just not natural variability anymore.”
From AMY GOODMAN
Climate Change: ‘This Is Just the Beginning’
Evidence supporting the existence of climate change is pummeling the United States this summer, from the mountain wildfires of Colorado to the recent “derecho” storm that left at least 23 dead and 1.4 million people without power from Illinois to Virginia. The phrase “extreme weather” flashes across television screens from coast to coast, but its connection to climate change is consistently ignored, if not outright mocked. If our news media, including—or especially—the meteorologists, continue to ignore the essential link between extreme weather and climate change, then we as a nation, the greatest per capita polluters on the planet, may not act in time to avert even greater catastrophe.
More than 2,000 heat records were broken last week around the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the government agency that tracks the data, reported that the spring of 2012 “marked the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States.” These record temperatures in May, NOAA says, “have been so dramatically different that they establish a new ‘neighborhood’ apart from the historical year-to-date temperatures.”…
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