SocraticGadfly: Texas climatologist, others: #climatechange behind record 2015

January 01, 2016

Texas climatologist, others: #climatechange behind record 2015

Jon Nielson-Gammon, the official state climatologist, and other climate scientists, note that global warming was a driver in a 2015 that saw Texas set a new state precipitation record.

Per Tom Toles, will this be enough to break through to denialists?

First, the numbers:

Preliminary figures show weekend rains that accompanied a North Texas tornado outbreak dropped an average of 1.3 inches across the state. That brings the statewide yearly rainfall total to 41.39 inches, surpassing 40.22 inches in 1941 and 39.45 inches in 1919 for the top spot on the rankings. 
That means the entire state, on average, was as wet as a typical year in Dallas. And Dallas is a fair degree east of the geographic center of the state.

Third, a descriptor:
"I've called this year's climate 'Texas' wild ride," said state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon. "We recovered from one drought, then had another one, then recovered from it. Texas had its wettest month ever, and its wettest storm ever, and the wettest storm was not in the wettest month."
That’s how “dynamic” the year 2015 has been.

Third, the analysis:
Experts credit phenomenal global-weather patterns in 2015 for the relentless storms, but also point to decades-old climate models, which long ago predicted that an earth warmed by greenhouse-gas emissions would see a higher volume of intense downpours like the ones that struck Texas this year.
Indeed, as the massive flooding, mixed with above normal temperatures, in Lancashire, England, has shown.

And more analysis:
The amount of rain that hits Texas in concentrated bursts has grown steadily over the last 40 years, according to Gerald North, a veteran climate researcher at Texas A&M University. That effect has long been predicted by computer models of greenhouse gas-induced climate change; warmer air currents hold more moisture, so when storm clouds break, there's more water to fall. 
"It seems to be a real trend," he said. "Probably more of our rain will be concentrated in these heavy events."

And, on the flip side, with Gammon's dynamics observations, will we have more of what we could call "microdroughts"?

And more:
"The intensity of storms is going up," said Ron Sass, fellow in global climate change at Rice University. … 
 "There's more energy in the atmosphere because of the higher temperature," said Sass at Rice. "So weather in general is becoming more intense."
And yet more:
The dramatic weather bears the markers of man-made climate change, according to Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University and former senior tech policy analyst at the White House. 
Decades of computer models with millions of data points and variables have suggested that precipitation would concentrate into heavy outbreaks as the climate warms. This year is strongly poised to overtake 2014 as the Earth's warmest year on record, according to federal data.
Note that last point.

Climate change denialists like to claim there’s been a “pause” in global warming. (There hasn’t, of course.)

Even if there were (any temporary slowdown has been due to oceans absorbing more warming for a few years), back to back record-warm years “refudiate” such nonsense.

Will tea party wingnuts listen to the home folks?

Texas insurance companies note the urban expenses of all of this.

Farmers note the wild swings of this year were a bad year for cotton and a horrible one for wheat. The 2016 season also shapes up to be horrible for wheat; fall rains killed two-thirds of normal planting from ever happening.

Add that the North Pole went above freezing on Tuesday, almost unheard of for any time of year, let alone when the sun isn't shining, as part of a whole mass of ultradynamic weather, and the denialists just don't have a leg to stand on.

So, yes, we need negative carbon emissions, and now. We also need negative methane emissions, and if a new GMO variety of rice can make a significant dent in that, by all means, let's junk the "Frankenfoods" nonsense if the food tests out as safe.

Let's hope Tom Toles is right, on the wingnut side, that cracks are appearing in the world of denialism. I'll believe it when I see more evidence. That said, as he notes, there's a second wall behind the original wall of denialism. That wall is the wall of, to riff on Evgeny Morozov. But it's simple: Carbon tax (as he notes) plus carbon tariff.

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