But It’s Not Global Climate Change, Because… Oh, Look, Al Gore Is Fat

Dr. Jeff Masters of the ever useful Weather Underground site summarizes recent weather patterns:

Nature’s fury reached new extremes in the U.S. during the spring of 2011, as a punishing series of billion-dollar disasters brought the greatest flood in recorded history to the Lower Mississippi River, an astonishingly deadly tornado season, the worst drought in Texas history, and the worst fire season in recorded history. There’s never been a spring this extreme for combined wet and dry extremes in the U.S. since record keeping began over a century ago, statistics released last week by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reveal. …

Masters goes on to describe the solar cycle, La Niña, and the jet stream, each with its role in the displacement of wet weather northward and dry weather southward. As usual, Masters has excellent maps and charts of several aspects of the phenomenon.

Most American readers don’t need maps and charts. We can confirm this anomalous weather from personal experience. It’s been… weird. And occasionally devastating.

So… does this or does it not result from global climate change (which Masters assumes explicitly, quite legitimately without defense,  is already in progress)? Masters gives us a definite… “Maybe”:

… This spring’s unusual precipitation pattern–wet in the Northern U.S., and dry in the South–does fit what we’d expect from a natural but unusually long-lived winter La Niña pattern (Figure 2). However, it also fits the type of precipitation pattern climate models expect to occur over the U.S. by the end of the century due to human-caused warming of the climate (though shifted a few hundred miles to the south, Figure 6.) … So, is it possible that the record extremes of drought and wetness this spring in the U.S. were due to a combination of La Niña and climate change. It is difficult to disentangle the two effects without doing detailed modelling studies, …

Keep in mind, though, that climate models are best at describing the future global average conditions, and not at predicting how climate change might affect individual continents–or at predicting how rare extreme events might change. Major continent-scale changes in atmospheric circulation are likely to result over the coming few decades due to climate change, and I expect the jet stream will shift farther to the south in certain preferred regions during some combination of seasons and of the natural atmospheric patterns like La Niña, El Niño, and the Arctic Oscillation. …

One thing we can say is that since global ocean temperatures have warmed about 0.6°C (1°F) over the past 40 years, there is more moisture in the air to generate record flooding rains. The near-record warm Gulf of Mexico SSTs this April that led to record Ohio Valley rainfalls and the 100-year $5 billion+ flood on the Mississippi River would have been much harder to realize without global warming.

Whatever you choose to call the cause, this does not sound encouraging to me. Your mileage may vary.

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  • MandT  On Wednesday June 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    We had better pull out our polyester lunatic suits so we can blend in when they finally take over. What’s that old saying?: All hair and no brain. Howdy Gov. Perry!

    • Steve  On Wednesday June 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      Oops, MandT, I think you meant to post this a couple of blog posts upstream. I’ve posted a ref there to the comment on this page.

      “All hair and no brain” is perfect for Perry, indeed, it’s probably too generous to him.

  • Bryan  On Wednesday June 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    I would note that solar activity is in its declining cycle, one of the many things that affects the climate, and that should mean cooling. Generally speaking, all of the cyclical indicators that have predicted change over thousands of years, say the earth should be in a cooling trend. That means that the actual heating is worse than indicated by the data because it is overwhelming all of the natural cooling trends.

    BTW, the cyclical indicators are the reason for articles in the 1970s talking about a new ‘Ice Age’.

    • Steve  On Thursday June 16, 2011 at 8:44 am

      Bryan, I seem to remember a 1970s S/F novel called (I think) “Ice” which depicted the ice age resulting from such a cooling cycle. All I remember of the plot (such as it was) is that one fellow kept lugging around a portable generator and ham radio gear, convinced that if they could just maintain communication, they could fix things. But he didn’t last, either.

      I strongly suspect we are past the tipping point, and that you and I may live to see the consequences. Those consequences will not include American global domination, however fond our recent presidents seem to be of that concept.

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