Local conditions and personal reflections

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 11:09 PM GMT on May 31, 2013

Local Conditions and Personal Reflections

I have disappeared for a while because of technological failures. Honestly, I embraced them for a couple of days, but it's hard for me to remain in denial for more than a day or two. So I have sought out the computer at the public library and remembered my WU login. Here is a personal reflection on how local weather conditions might impact how one thinks about climate change.

I am currently residing in Boulder, Colo., where I try to grow a pretty large garden. Last year, 2012, was exceedingly hot in the spring and very dry. The dryness continued into the winter of 2013.

Water is in short supply in the West. This is not news. In fact, when John Wesley Powell explored the West he was pessimistic about its habitability because of scarcity of water (an old NPR story). He laid out a vision of a West of small settlements anchored in reliable water sources. Earlier, when Stephen Long explored the Midwest and the Front Range of the Rockies, he labeled the area the "Great Desert." (some cool maps from University of Tulsa).

Of course, the Great Plains and the West have now been populated with large cities. Water is managed in a fragmented way on an enormous spatial scale. There is huge contention for water between cities, agricultural and conservation management, and energy production. This is one area of the country where there is concern shared amongst the governors about drought and climate change.

In March 2013 as the local drought persisted, I was downright depressed about the coming spring and summer. The snowpack in the mountains was low. In the previous year, the spring had been so warm that much of the snow melted well before the normal spring runoff. I remember in June 2012 putting pumpkins into soil that was well over 110 degrees F and dry down to the underlying clay bed. With the low humidity and heat, I could not water most of them enough to keep them alive. In March 2013, we seemed to be looking at even less water.

Spring 2013 was just plain odd in the U.S. Largely, it was cold, with many record cold temperatures. The cold waves were interspersed with sometimes record heat. The variability was enormous. In my part of Colorado during April, at just about exactly seven-day intervals, there was one record snow a week. On the flat lands east of the mountains, these snows were followed by extraordinary seasonal cold, then a rapid melt. Virtually all blossoming trees did not blossom; the bees are not happy. In the mountains, the snowpack built up to be higher than average. Some ski resorts reopened for Memorial Day because of fresh May snow.

Here at the end of May, I look at the mountains and there is a lot of snow. The farm irrigation ditches run full of water. The cities are reconsidering the water restrictions they imposed in February and March. The hay fields are green and tall. I look around, and I feel pretty good about the summer.

Those mountains that I see to the West supply the Platte River and the Colorado River. I look up to them and naively think of the Colorado River full of water. However, the truth is quite the contrary. 2013 is yet another year of the Colorado River being in extreme drought. Despite my seeing all of that snow in my little world 2013 is an intensification of the Southwest drought.

I remember when I was quite young there was a drought in my home state of North Carolina. I was only a bit more naive then, perhaps more prone to the mystical, and I worried about the weather being broken in some way. At that age, weather was itself a mystery. I had no idea how to describe the motion of air and how to turn humidity into rain. I imagined that there had been a divine intervention into how the weather worked--it was the opposite of the biblical flood. I was a young boy with a narrow view of the world, so I assumed the whole world was in drought. I am sure that a few hundred miles away, however, the weather was still working; it was raining. I probably even checked to make sure that was the case. As I now sit in a world with what looks like enough snow for a good season in the garden, that childhood comfort of the weather working comes back.

This little vision I have into the world, that my weather has been beneficent, really has little relevance to whether or not the climate is changing. My little vision is no different than that of all of the people who have looked at the cold U.S. spring of 2013 and stated that as evidence or proof that the Earth was not warming. You have to look at all of the Earth and look at what is happening in the oceans and look at all that is melting.

One of our best resources on drought and water is the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). NIDIS followed from The 1998 National Drought Policy Act and The Western Governors' Association (some good policy history). This is climate policy; this is climate service. It is based on known vulnerabilities, ones that are expected to get worse because there is really nothing that suggests the vulnerabilities will lessen on their own. There is no looking at the facts and saying it will all be all right.

Rather than looking out your window and saying that the weather is working and that our climate is like it has always been, better to take a broader look--a global perspective. For a national perspective on drought, here is the outlook from NIDIS on May 15, 2013.

Hope to get my computer and files back early next week. Don't forget me.


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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436. Xulonn
4:00 AM GMT on June 10, 2013
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
435. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
3:52 AM GMT on June 10, 2013
RickyRood has created a new entry.
434. ScottLincoln
3:38 AM GMT on June 10, 2013
Quoting Patrap:

It begins,

Larry Bell, Contributor

Keep Your Long Flannel Underwear: Climate Scientists Predict Hell To Freeze Over!

OP/ED | 5/26/2013 @ 10:00AM |11,314 views
Meteorologist Joe Bastardi: Blaming Turbulent Weather On Global Warming Is Extreme Nonsense

So much gibberish, so little time. In fact, I think I'll just go to sleep instead.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
422. BaltimoreBrian
12:34 AM GMT on June 10, 2013
419. martinitony
11:31 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
413. RevElvis
10:29 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
Climate science tells us the alarm bells are ringing
By Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth

Michael Oppenheimer is a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University. Kevin Trenberth is a distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

In a recent op-ed for The Post, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) offered up a reheated stew of isolated factoids and sweeping generalizations about climate science to defend the destructive status quo. We agree with the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology that policy should be based on sound science. But Smith presented political talking points, and none of his implied conclusions is accurate.

The two of us have spent, in total, more than seven decades studying Earth’s climate, and we have joined hundreds of top climate scientists to summarize the state of knowledge for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Climate Research Program and other science-based bodies. We believe that our views are representative of the 97 percent of climate scientists who agree that global warming is caused by humans. Legions of studies support the view that, left unabated, this warming will produce dangerous effects. (This commentary, like so much of our work, was a collaborative process, with input from leading climate scientists Julia Cole, Robert W. Corell, Jennifer Francis, Michael E. Mann, Jonathan Overpeck, Alan Robock, Richard C.J. Somerville and Ben Santer.)

Man-made heat-trapping gases are warming our planet and leading to increases in extreme weather events. Droughts are becoming longer and deeper in many areas. The risk of wildfires is increasing. The year 2012, the hottest on record for the United States, illustrated this risk with severe, widespread drought accompanied by extensive wildfires.

Last month, levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million, approaching the halfway mark between preindustrial amounts and a doubling of those levels. This doubling is expected to cause a warming this century of four to seven degrees Fahrenheit. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide reached this level was more than 3 million years ago, when Arctic lands were covered with forests. The unprecedented rate of increase has been driven entirely by human-produced emissions.

,... Link to Article at The WashingtonPost
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
406. Xulonn
9:42 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
Quoting cyclonebuster:
What have you done Xulonn?
We share the belief that AGW/CC is real and a thread to humanity and our modern civilization. However, you have stated that you don't believe that an overall reduction in CO2 emissions is possible, although it is certainly the one foolproof way to counter AGW/CC. Conversely, I believe that geo-engineering schemes are not the answer either, because of both financial and technical difficulties and the fact that computer modeling can only demonstrate probable feasibility and give support to an idea, not prove that it absolutely will work. The only real proof would be in the deployment or application of large-scale prototypes. The real fly in the ointment is the specter of unintended consequences, which looms large as a possibility of making the situation even worse for things designed to fundamentally alter the global climate with its delicate balances, and by extension, affect other systems in the biosphere.

My vision is much less grandiose, and my focus is on education with respect to everyday people who don't really understand science and how it works. As you may have noticed, I am interested in the psychology of AGW/CC denial and countering denialism to assist in a global effort to swing the majority opinion to support planning for adaptation to climate change and reduce greenhouse gasses. I would rather be a member of a greater global community trying to educate people who work to facilitate changes in lifestyles and infrastructure rather than gamble on unproven technologies with the previously mentioned possibility of nasty unintended consequences.

As far as personal effort, I drive as little as possible and use buses for longer trips. My home has neither heating nor A/C. I eat locally grown food - preferably organic - as much as I can.

With respect to my interest in AGW/CC education, I am currently taking a online course from the University of British Columbia entitled "Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations." (You should take a project planning course focused on large-scale-projects - it would help a lot in your efforts.)

I am looking at the possibility of writing an e-book on climate change, which will attempt to enlighten those on the fence or not willing to spend a lot of time on the subject. It will be one of many on the subject, but involves minimal utilization of natural resources, and if I can influence just a few people, I will be pleased with my effort.

Good luck in the MIT / Climate CoLab contest - which you apparently entered in November, 2012. I understand that you are moving it from the Electric Power Sector category to the Geoengineering one. Selection of semi-finalists is soon, and voting and final judging is from July 1-15, 2013. We don't have long to wait to see how you and your tunnels fare in competition.

It looks like you've put all of your eggs into one basket, and it's got to be a big deal for you. I'll be fair and refrain from criticism of your project until the contest is over in five weeks.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
398. Patrap
6:52 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
395. LowerCal
5:22 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
Quoting RevElvis:

Meanwhile - only last year >

House Adopts Measure to Halt Light-Bulb Efficiency Law (6/6/2012)


Apparently American Politics and Public Service have divorced. :^\
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
394. JohnLonergan
3:10 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
Apparently, The blog What's Up With That Watts? has a lot of time on his hands, here he destroys a 2009 talk byRichard Lindzen:

First an introduction to What's Up With That Watts?:

This website was inspired by my frustration reading though WattsUpWithThat's onslaught of nonsense and crazy-making. ~ ~ ~ It's a collection of articles, blog posts and authoritative scientific sources, along with a few original writings that I believe are worth sharing - Food for thought during this struggle to teach serious science in a world seemingly filled with politically motivated and sadly disconnected dogmatists. ~ ~ ~ Hopefully a resource for the busy, yet discerning student ;-)

He is challenged by a commenter at Watt's place:

"Citizenschallenge, you are the one who chose to make personal attacks and dishonest ad hominems about James Taylor*, The Heartland Institute and the scientists in his article.

You want videos from climate scientists? No problem,Richard S. Lindzen Ph.D. Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT

How many more do you want? I know you have been brainwashed to not believe there are highly credentialed scientists who do not support your position on climate change but please don%u2019t make it so obvious."

*He's referring to "James Taylor Caught Doctoring the '97-Percent Consensus' Claims" http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2013/05/j ames-taylor-caught-doctoring-97.html

With that invitation I took up the video.[...]"

The destruction follows:

Lindzen, Deconstructs Global Warming Hysteria - 1/3 Anatomy of a Con Job

Lindzen, Deconstructs Global Warming Hysteria - 2/3 Anatomy of a Con Job

Lindzen, Deconstructs Global Warming Hysteria - 3/3 Anatomy of a Con Job

They're all long, but WUWTB is very thorough and has a citation for everything he says.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
392. JohnLonergan
2:22 PM GMT on June 09, 2013

Edit: Note the dates, this is a projection out to 6-16
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
391. ScottLincoln
2:18 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
Quoting Birthmark:
Holy Moley!

It will be interesting to see if that's the reality up there or if, as I suspect, it's the sensors picking up something that looks like melt but isn't.

Still, it's a startling image for early June.

It's always fun when the ice melt just skips the fringe areas and goes straight to the north pole. Completely normal, nothing to see here.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
389. JohnLonergan
2:04 PM GMT on June 09, 2013
CDC urges everyone: Get ready to stay cool before temperatures soar

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to prepare for extreme heat this summer by staying cool, hydrated, and informed. “No one should die from a heat wave, but every year on average, extreme heat causes 658 deaths in the United States—more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightning combined,” said Robin Ikeda, MD, MPH, acting director of the National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. “Taking common sense steps in extreme temperatures can prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths.”
Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, and even death. People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and cool themselves properly. Extreme heat affects everyone, but the elderly, children, the poor or homeless, persons who work or exercise outdoors, and those with chronic medical conditions are most at risk.
A study released today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that 7,233 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2009. An analysis of 2012 data indicates that deaths are on the rise. In a 2-week period in 2012, excessive heat exposure resulted in 32 deaths in four states, four times the typical average for those states for the same 2-week period from 1999-2009. More than two thirds of the deaths (69 percent) occurred at home, and 91 percent of those homes lacked air conditioning. Most of those who died were unmarried or living alone, and 72 percent were male.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
388. Xulonn
3:24 AM GMT on June 09, 2013
Quoting cyclonebuster:
LOL... BTW Xulonn you don't know SQUAT either...lol...
Personal insults - but no rebuttal- because you cannot.

I may not know squat - whatever that means - but I do know a lot about science and engineering. I worked with scientists and engineers, often in a very minor role on everything from manure spreader bearings to rotating components for the Hubble Space telescope. I worked on components for the AMRAAM (advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile, IR Maverick missle, military satellites, F-14, F-15 and F-18 radar systems, heat shrinkable radiation shielding elastomers, large scale solar thermal systems and much more. I have seen up close how complex, high-tech electrical and mechanical engineering, plus detailed fiscal and project planning efforts come together to make successful hi-tech projects work, and I see little of that rigorous effort and discipline in your geo-engineering pipe dreams.

Theoretically, your vision may have merit, but is it practical and cost effective? As the years go by, are you any closer to large scale rigorous modelling of your proposal, or is it just a pipedream. Some call it a crackpot idea:

Quoting From the Palm Beach County Sentinel last Month:
Myth: This is the 21st century, and we should be able to put our technological wizardry to work to destroy hurricanes. We can accomplish this by towing icebergs from the arctic to weaken them with cold water, using giant pipes to bring up cold water from the ocean depths, seeding clouds to force the rain out of them at sea, coat the ocean along their path with oil to stop evaporating water from powering the storm, erecting giant fans to blow the hurricane back out to sea or breaking up a hurricane with hydrogen bombs.

Reality: All impossible, and a few would make things worse. Like many crackpot ideas, however, they are built around a kernel of reality. It would theoretically be possible to fatally weaken a hurricane with icebergs, but towing enough of them into its path would require all the merchant ships currently in service in the world. Even nuclear weapons don't have sufficient power to do the job. All they would accomplish would be to create a radioactive hurricane.
I would love to be proven wrong, but I am not holding my breath. I would support you vigorously if there was evidence that your scheme had merit.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

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Dr. Ricky Rood's Climate Change Blog

About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.