Saturday, July 23, 2011


From where they know just what they ought,
...memories of times past that should be banished
Only relics, philosophies and a parched wasteland lie below..."
The southwest is parched, extreme heat and no rain. This has happened before, in the 1930s giving rise to a migration westward as farms failed, and much earlier, wiping out a civilization.

While, as with every such occurrence, one cannot attribute this directly to humans messing about with the atmosphere and surface, playing with loaded dice is not recommended. An interview this morning on NPR with Dr. Martin Hoerling of NOAA Boulder dealt with the odds, for and against:

MH: Let's think about that, not necessarily worry about exactly the cause of this thing, but let's think about this as to what would the climate would look like in about 50 to 100 years in that region...the experiments that are used to project climate into the future are indicating that an event a heat wave of lets say one in a 100 year recurrance in the 20th century type of frequency would happen perhaps once every 10 years maybe once every 5 years. Conditions that are so uncomfortable today, the reason you are talking to me about this, people are uncomfortable. If we are not adapted to the situation we are experiencing today we almost certainly will not be adapted to the temperature conditions that are on the horizon as we go deeper into the 21st century. So it's a good wake up call for us as to what the climate may become as we continue to increase our emissions of carbon dioxide.

NPR: So what you are suggesting that instead of just putting up with this for a week or two this may become summer

MH: The extremes we are experiencing today may become the normals of the latter half of the 21st century
So what should be done about Texas, never mind Kansas. Well that is an interesting question. It is quite clear that:

Things are going to get really hot, sea levels are going to rise, lack of water west of the Mississippi and south of Colorado is threatening a new Dust Bowl and hurricanes are going to make life tough along the Gulf Coast.

TX and a whole lot of other states in the area do the “stand on your own two feet, we don’t need the Federal govt telling us what to do, we’re open for business, low taxes, thing.

But as a whole, TX and a whole lot of other states in the area are on the way to a serious collision with the reality of climate change, and the “stand on your own two feet” will be nice but unreal.

Eli et al. is seriously irked by the "stand on your own two feet thing" especially when the bunnies look at the flow of our tax carrots to states like Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi (TX is a net contributor, but less than it should because of tax breaks to the oil companies, etc.)

It is a not a question of punishing the average person, or revenge, or anything like that, it is a question of triage in the next century.

So the question is should sympathy extend to paying anything to TX and friends to save them from the effects of their leading fights to ignore climate and energy issues?


Horatio Algeranon said...

--by Horatio Algeranon

Give facts the axe
They don't mean squat.

Thermometers don't prove
The globe's getting hot.

Reality, it's plain to see,
In reality, is not.

Anonymous said...

With respect to the drought, heat, and wildfires that the the deniers in Texas, Oklahoma, etc. have been suffering with, all I have to say is, "Burn Bubba Burn".

Anonymous said...

Optional wars. Optional Great Depressions. Optional end of Civilization.

All to please the extraction industries.

Misanthropy. It's not just for breakfast anymore.

Jeffrey Davis

Anonymous said...

Texas? Isn't there a hot streak from Mexico to Alberta?
Latter half of the century? How sure is anyone that this summer's temperature isn't to be expected about every five years as of now?

Pete Dunkelberg

JCH said...

The worst droughts in Texas history was in the 1950s. Worse than this one so far.

The great plains, from Oklahoma upwards, was swallowed up in the dust bowl, but Texas largely escaped that drought.

As of June, J N-G (our state climatologist adeptly two-stepping his way through the wickedly mined Texas political landscape):

"Here are the peak PDSI drought intensities for some historical droughts, and the month in which peak intensity was achieved:

1950-1957 -7.80 September 1956
1916-1918 -7.09 August 1918
2011-? -6.37 June 2011 (so far)
1924-1925 -6.10 July 1925
1999-2000 -5.51 September 2000
2005-2006 -5.48 July 2006
1909-1911 -5.31 January 1911

If you’re looking for the Dust Bowl, you won’t find it here. The Dust Bowl drought was mainly in the central Plains, and in Texas only the northern Panhandle suffered the worst."

There is no let up, so this drought could overtake one, maybe both, of the leaders.

I picked a good year to start my cactus garden.

John Mashey said...

I don't get too excited about any single year, but I do note (from JCH's numbers from John N-G) that 3 of the top 7 are 2000, 2006 and 2011, although 1911-1918-1925 form a somewhat similar trio, so this is not yet unique.

Scrooge said...

Pray for rain, pray for rain, heck at least pray for a new governor.

JCH said...

The major way Texas rids itself of its horrible politicians is to send them to live at the White House.

Pray that doesn't happen.

John Mashey said...

Yes, we'd rather you keep Rick Perry in TX, sorry. :-)

But seriously, TX is important economically & politically, and if TX could even be gotten close to neutral in this fight, it would be nice. As it is, TX appears likely to continue to lead efforts to avoid doing anything about climate change, whether nationally, or via (sometimes successful) attempts to sabotage local efforts in other states, especially CA.

Anonymous said...

Prior to this, the worst drought on record for Texas was probably observed in the fifties, not the thirties, so people really should not be talking about this being like the thirties (at least for TX!). In fact, current conditions in TX are much, much worse than they were in the thirties. See here:

This is the most recent Palmer Drought Index:

J N-G can probably bump this event to second on the list now. It might also be that the temperatures associated with the current drought are higher than those observed during the drought of the fifties.


Anonymous said...

Some temperature data:


Anonymous said... , just 2-4 degrees warmer than normal, not much of a heat wave. Wasn't it projected that this would be the new normal in the area in 40 years? Of course the lack of rain is the worse component here, as if there's no rain, there's no water, and this condition will eventually kill most large animals and plants present. Might the Hadley cell been expanded to direct them hurricanes to more northerly paths with some potential to hit the NE coast more often than the Gulf? Nevermind, whatever and more.

subarctic bunny

Anonymous said... , presents an interesting pattern of westward low pressures in the north, seems like they get diverted by the high in Greenland, they rain their rains in the Canadian mountains and NW coasts, then travel south with absolutely no moisture, fascinating thought to have dry low pressure areas for this subarctic bunny.

Anonymous said...

This subarctic bunny likes to speculate so a story without a link to climate change could be in order:

a mutation happened in the algae in the northern pacific which allowed these to slowly devour the garbage patch presenet in there, they got some gas from the devouring, this in turn let them to rise to the surface with the garbage preventing proper evaporation and thus creating a high pressure area. The high let more sunshine in and the algae flourished. The diversion of the low pressure cells was the expected result but unfortunately this meant trouble with the lack water for southerners.

But even this story needs two explanatory factors and not one, namely the presence of the garbage patch and a mutation in the algae.