Global Warming Strikes Nebraska - Again

At a news conference July 16 in Omaha, retired National Weather Service meteorologist John Pollack outlined the role that human-caused Global Warming is playing in the extreme weather events that have struck our state the past two summers.  Speaking down by the Missouri River, Pollack contrasted last year’s disastrous flooding from the massive snowmelt in the Rockies to the drought and record-setting temperatures that are now devastating the state.

Reprinted below is the statement Pollack delivered at the news conference, which was co-sponsored by 350.org–Nebraska, the Greater Omaha Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and Nebraskans for Peace.

The recent weather disasters -- our scorching heat wave, drought, western wildfires, derecho (direct, straight-line) windstorm, and even the early rash of tropical storms -- all are part of a pattern made more frequent by Global Warming. This is the conclusion of 98 percent of the climate scientists who conduct research and publish in peer-reviewed journals on climate. Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/rick-perrys-made-up-facts-about-climate-change/2011/08/17/gIQApVF5LJ_blog.html

Human-caused Global Warming has been worsening this large-scale weather pattern by pushing southern weather systems northward. This weather phenomenon is consistent with climate models that predict how rising carbon dioxide levels from fossil fuel burning will affect the Earth’s climate. This weather pattern, which has been very persistent over the U.S. since the beginning of 2012 has resulted in the warmest year since good records began in 1895, and has produced an expanding area of drought over much of the country. Abnormally dry conditions intensified the recent heat wave, and allowed the hot air to spread across a large region.

This is what Global Warming looks like, and this is for the rest of our lives.

The recent heat wave set thousands of individual records from the Rockies to the East Coast. Omaha had a record high of 104 on July 6th, but also record warm minimum temperatures of 78 or 79 from July 4th through 6th, as well as on June 18th and 27th. This has also been the warmest start to any calendar year in Omaha. Western and central Nebraska were even hotter. McCook’s all-time high of 115 on June 26th was only 3 degrees shy of the state record.

The western wildfires were enhanced by very hot conditions and humidity as low as 4 percent. In addition, climate change and drought have been hard on trees, making them more susceptible to premature death through insect attack as well as disease.

The massive derecho windstorm that left many residents without power in a swath from Indiana to the Middle Atlantic States is a rare storm type associated with heat waves. The jet stream on the north side of the hot area helps to organize fast-moving thunderstorms with fierce winds.

As the subtropical high pressure zone moved northward into the U.S. much earlier than usual, it left a disturbed zone of lower pressure to its south. This zone acts as a breeding ground for tropical storms in the summer and fall, but it was activated weeks earlier than normal.

This year’s weather events are just a foretaste of what we face from Global Warming in the years ahead. The Earth is catching a fever. The average temperature during the past 12 months in the lower 48 states has been 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. While that may not seem all that significant, think of how your body feels with a 101.5 temperature, three degrees above our normal 98.6. As a nation, we need to very quickly implement energy efficiency measures by insulating homes and businesses and shift to utilizing Nebraska’s vast renewable wind and solar energy resources—rather than rely on out-of-state coal and oil—for our energy supply. Unless we act soon, we will have a general warming of over four degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century, with even more extreme conditions in hotter years.

Hotter weather will be especially dangerous for agriculture in Nebraska. Higher temperatures, particularly when corn is pollinating, reduce the yields per acre. Livestock will also suffer losses. Nebraska’s bedrock industry is threatened. Wild changes in precipitation also threaten to cause damage to crops, structures, and the economy at large.

The effects of the wild changes in precipitation are clearly illustrated by the background statue, which was damaged last year when it was mostly covered by floodwater, but now is high and dry.

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