John Cross

Summer sun - something's begun!

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Back in June, Kevin Drum had an interesting take on a Brookings poll on climate change discussed the recent change in public opinion on various climate related issues. The results of the poll are interesting but essentially show what you would expect given the economy of the last few years - people tend not to worry about the future if they are having a hard time living through today. However as things improve (or become less pressing) people once again start to look to the future.

While I think that Kevin hits the nail on the head for most of it, I disagree with him when he says:

Conclusion: liberals need to stop nattering on about the latest research. It may gall us to do it, but anecdotal evidence (mild winters, big hurricanes, wildfires, etc.) is probably our best bet. We should milk it for everything it’s worth.

If that was the case, this summer would provide ammunition for years to come, but unfortunately the side that does not accept the science (they get very upset when I call them deniers) has become very adept at this type of argument and to argue that a warm summer is evidence of global warming would give credence to the counter argument that a cold winter is evidence that does not support global warming. So I try to stick to doing what science does best - observe, predict and evaluate. The good news (if you want to call it that) is that this summer has given us some observations that support predictions made about global warming.

One that is interesting - not so much for the observation itself but for the sham it makes of the argument that Arctic ice has been recovering since 2007 - is the condition of Arctic ice. Today is an important event since (as far as I can eyeball - I haven’t actually checked the data to tell if it was yesterday or today) we have hit the lowest arctic sea ice extent since we have been making observations. Keep in mind that there is still almost a month of melting left to do in 2012.

This event by itself is only a single point, but if you look at all the data, there was less ice in the 1990s than the 80’s, even less in the 2000’s and with only 3 data points so far in the 2010’s it will be even lower. So the predictions of an ice free arctic soon (depending on your definition of soon) seem to be holding up!

Interesting as arctic sea ice is, of more concern to me is a prediction offered by a paper published in 2004 by Dr. Cook titled “Long-Term Aridity Changes in the Western United States”. The paper is interesting (if a little technical) but part of Dr. Cook’s evidence is that during the earlier medieval warm period the west suffered 300 years where conditions were generally much worse than the 1930’s dust bowl. Through some analysis of climate conditions he concludes that increases in warming will lead to less precipitation and consequently drought.

So 8 years ago we had a prediction that increased warming would lead to drought and that prediction seems to be holding up. Add that to the fact that North America currently has about 13.5 million hectares using groundwater to irrigate and you have trouble shaping up (how long can ground water be used before it starts to dry up).

If anyone wants a consequence of global warming, here’s one.

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This page contains a single entry by John Cross published on August 24, 2012 8:54 AM.

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