So yesterday's show had a piece about the wildfires in California. Amy Goodman had an "expert" come on to discuss the cause. She lofted up a softball for him to hit. "So, are these fires a result of global warming?" Answer: "Oh, absolutely!" BULLSHIT! He then went on to say that fires like this will be more common in the future as the planet heats up. Once again, BULLSHIT! If the climate changes, the vegetation will change. California will become more desert-like and therefore there will be a lot less of the scrub oak that is such a great fuel. Also, show me some evidence that acres burned this year is greater than any other year. Show me a chart that shows there are more fires this year than any other. Could it also be that these fires are getting such media scrutiny because 1000+ houses have been destroyed? Perhaps 50 years ago there would not be such interest because the areas were undeveloped. It's just like earthquakes. A magnitude 8 in the middle of Alaska is just as powerful as a magnitude 8 centered under San Francisco. The difference is that there are a few hundred thousand people in San Francisco, so of course it would be a greater disaster. A tornado going through the middle of Kansas is a lot less destructive than one going through Wichita. Duh!
I have already ranted about the science involved in the global warming debate. I have a colleague in the Weather Service who tells me that global warming is definitely occurring. I believe him. When asked about a cause, he squirms. There is no definitive answer yet.
The usual answer in the global warming debate usually includes the phrase, "our models show..." Whenever you hear that, treat the response with a great deal of skepticism. Models are nice handy tools, but when you're dealing with something as complex as global climate, there is a high probability of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. As I have said many times, weather forecasters can barely get the forecast right for next week. How can you expect them to know what the weather will be like in 10 or 100 years?!?
I also found it amusing that the recent flooding in New Orleans was brought up. Once again the "expert" was asked if this was a result of climate change. Once again the answer was, "Oh! Of course!" I guess the theory of the week is that drier areas will get drier while wetter areas will get wetter. This just doesn't make sense to me. If we are adding more water to the system through sea level increase and melting ice caps, then there has to be an increase in water vapor to the system. I have heard that humidity will rise across the planet. That I can agree with. Global warming cannot produce a zero-sum game in terms of the hydrologic cycle. Here in New Mexico the most likely outcome will be that the snow levels will rise so high that there will no longer be a reliable snowpack to fill our reservoirs in Spring. On the other paw, higher humidities could mean an earlier and more reliable monsoon season in Summer. In talking with the irrigation district I was told that there would be no real need for reservoir storage if the area received regular rains in the Summer.
As I stated in an earlier post, global warming WILL effect humankind in a major way. Humans, however, are a very adaptable creature and we will find a way to deal with it. Developing countries WILL feel the brunt of the negative impacts, but once again, a new equilibrium WILL be established and life will go on. The other certainty is that EVERY natural disaster from now on will be attributed to global warming just like everything was blamed on El Nino in the early 80's.