Monday, September 26, 2005

A Warm September

It's been a warm September in southeast Kansas. But finally, as the month gives way to October, cooler temperatures are in the forecast. It's about time.

In Kansas it's not unheard of for summer to hang tenaciously on well into September. Even so, highs in the mid 90's all month have raised concerns that we'd be skipping fall this year.

Could this September be another piece of circumstantial evidence that global warming is now occurring? Maybe. While there's so much natural variation in climate that no single event makes the case, suffering through the past month certainly suggests how things might be in Septembers yet to come.

The preponderance of evidence for global warming is compelling. The 1990's was the hottest decade ever recorded. Glaciers are receding dramatically worldwide. The poles are thawing at a stunning rate. (The high arctic is warming much more rapidly than the rest of the planet, with sobering implications that several resulting feedback mechanisms will speed warming even more.)

And as we weary of a warm September, it's worth repeating that in the 1980's a NASA scientist demonstrated that global warming is being manifested by a shift in the onset of the seasons. Spring now comes a week earlier than it used to. Is fall similarly being delayed?

Even anecdotal evidence suggests that winters aren't what they used to be. For example, armadillos are now a common roadkill constituent around here. They used to be much more rare, perhaps completely absent. Armadillos don't tolerate hard winters. Does their current prevalence indicate that moderate winters are allowing them to migrate farther north from their previous range?

As we clean up from Katrina and Rita, we can't help but recall that climate models have long predicted that warmer oceans will fuel more powerful hurricanes. Now comes the news that scientists have shown that the severity of hurricanes worldwide has increased over the past couple of decades. And this is just the beginning, because global temperatures are projected to rise a lot more in the coming century. The resulting increase in sea levels, plus the greater ferocity of storms, will constitute a devastating one-two punch at low lying coastal areas.

When President George W. Bush walked away from the Kyoto agreement near the beginning of his first term, his primary reason for doing so was that taking action against global warming would be too big a burden to the U.S. economy. With projections of $200-300 billion to rebuild after Katrina, we are reminded that even in a purely economic sense (which is not the only sense that matters) doing nothing has its costs too.

Copyright (C) 2005 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved


At Mon Sep 26, 07:16:00 PM, Anonymous bert said...

whether or not global warming is a man-made or natural phenomenom is beside the point. What no one can deny is that our petroleum based lifestyle has an unprecidented impact on a carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere. Not even the scentists in the pay of the petroleum companies can deny that we are fooling around with natural systems we don't understand. And no one fools Mother Nature.


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