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Drought, Fire, Flood: In the News

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 5:22 AM GMT on July 12, 2011

Drought, Fire, Flood: In the News

I have been writing about a variety of issues that I know are of interest to only a small number of people – U.S. science organizations, climate model software, and validation of climate models. I am going to move away from that arcane set of subjects for a while and spend a little more time in the climate mainstream. In this entry I want to touch on several subjects – starting with my garden.

My garden is in the flat land that is the western edge of the Great Plains, just east of Boulder, Colorado. Weather wise, it is a complex and difficult environment: more than 5000 feet above sea level, reliant upon water from the winter snow pack in the mountains, huge swings of hot and cold. In terms of climate types, I have seen region defined as both arid and semiarid. In the last week, we have had three or more inches of rain – hard driving rain with much lightning. There is water standing between the rows in the garden. The week of July 4 it was so dry there was a fire ban, and many firework fires.

Last summer in Boulder we had the Fourmile Fire, which burned thousands of acres and dozens of houses. With this rain, we have mudslides, rock slides and flash floods (Longmont Times Call). It all makes you appreciate the importance of the weather and the climate. Wet and dry. Hot and cold. ( 485 Billion Dollar Impact of Weather)

Boulder is a microcosm of what is going on in the U.S. There have been overwhelming fires in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. (Texas Fires). Dangerous drought and heat is spreading all across the southern half of the U.S. The dust storm last week in Arizona was reminiscent of pictures of the Dust Bowl. (more here). We were overwhelmed not long ago by the Mississippi River flooding. I have almost forgotten about the Missouri River flooding.

Figure 1: From KFAB Omaha News Radio. Photo Credit AP: Missouri River flood of Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant.

We see here the persistence of weather, climate, snow cover, drought, floods - one extreme after another. Jeff Master’s wrote an excellent summary of 2010-2011 as being a year of the most extreme events since 1816 – the year of Mount Tambora, a definitive and understood climate anomaly. Jeff writes that June 2011 continues the run. July 2011 is looking strong. It has been more than 300 months since there was a “below average” mean temperature. That’s a little compelling.

We are being handed one case study after another, where we see the impact that weather and climate have on us. And what is that impact? We see vulnerable people losing their homes, their crops. But where is the real threat? What does it mean that 213 counties in Texas are primary disaster areas?

Energy, economy, population – markets. We all know that the weather affects our economy. We rely on a stable climate. We see here and now an interconnected world, where extreme heat kills thousands and destroys crops and send food prices soaring. We see multiple billion dollar liens placed on our economy by floods, droughts, and tornadoes. These costs come at a time when economies all around the world are weak. There is a debt crisis, and the weather is demanding more loans. Right here and now the world is providing one climate disaster after another. The weather and climate are showing the need for more planning, for building resilience and recovery strategies. The weather and climate are revealing our vulnerabilities. While there is the obvious, the family fleeing the flood, the destroyed Joplin, Missouri hospital, there is also the accumulated impact felt through markets, higher food prices, emergency relief, things that will not be fixed, people relocating.

We are being offered lessons. I have written this far and not strung together the words “climate change” or mentioned “global warming.” This is the weather in our warming climate. The take away message from climate models, Be Prepared.


Rood on To the Point

Open Climate Modeling:

Greening of the Desert

Stickiness and Climate Models

Open Source Communities, What are the Problems?

A Culture of Checking

Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling:

Something New in the Past Decade?

The Scientific Organization

A Science-Organized Community

Validation and the Scientific Organization

Climate Change Extreme Weather Climate Impacts and Risks

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