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Road Trip 2: Mobile to Boulder

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 4:22 AM GMT on August 08, 2007

From the Gulf, we wandered across Alabama to Selma, then a night in Memphis, Ponca City, and finally back to Boulder. We passed through an arch of lightening and thunderstorms in the Colorado Plains and, once through, saw the most brilliant and complete rainbow ever. A couple of pictures in "My Recent Photos."

Still in the spirit of the road trip --- if there is climate discussion on the road it is how wet it has been in Texas and Kansas, and how dry it is in northern Alabama and Tennessee. With all of the discussion of how climate change will impact severe weather and flood and drought cycles, some are seeing this as another part of the accumulation of evidence. Others, of course, point to the historical variability and say that we have seen such extremes before and, hence attribution to climate change is unjustified.

As was commented in the last blog, this discussion has moved beyond science and out into the public. People will start to re-frame the discussion. Knowledge and belief will become more entwined. For the sake of completeness and discussion here is the rainfall anomaly chart.
Precipitation anomaly

Figure 1: Rainfall anomaly from National Climate Data Center.

What is perhaps of more interest from a climate change point of view is the continued drought in the western third of the nation. There has been a lot of pretty good research that shows that this drought in combination with warmer temperatures is having impacts on eco-systems and wildfires beyond any ever realized before. Here's an aging link to pinyon pine die off.

As you drive across the agricultural parts of the country there is an increasing discussion of ethanol. A lot of corn has been planted. The discussion is beginning to move to the rationality of corn-based ethanol. There is some potential of realizing some energy independence, but (in my opinion) this is largely symbolic. From a climate point of view ethanol production does not make a lot of sense, especially if the extra stress on water is considered. What is most interesting to me about the discussion on the agricultural radio stations is the quick impact that the diversion of corn to ethanol is having on the beef industry, the food industry in general (corn syrup), and the link to the increase in milk prices. This is not to mention the impact on, say, supplying food to other nations--something that is important from both a humanitarian and international stability point of view. Then there are the links back to myriad existing policies. The interdependencies are emerging quickly. Perhaps on the opposite side of politics from last blog's link to Rush--here is a link to a article I was surprised to see in the Rolling Stone on ethanol.

So again some thoughts from the road--next time I will ask for local restaurant recommendations. Plus, tell me what to do about the speed trap in Loan Oak, Texas.


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