Texas Heat Wave & Drought Linked to Rapid Global Warming by NASA’s James Hansen

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Texas Heat Wave & Drought Linked to Rapid Global Warming by NASA's James Hansen Images

The Texas heat wave and drought linked to rapid global climate change according to NASA’s James Hansen.

The Texas heat wave and Texas drought that occurred over three months last summer where the temperatures in Texas rose higher than at any time in recorded history, and the state is still in the midst of the most expensive drought in the states history. But can the 2011 Texas heat wave and Texas drought be linked to global warming?

Some of us do associate these extreme weather events like this list of worst storms – natural disasters 2011 to global warming. However it is an entirely different world for scientists, and it is even difficult to get accross the fact that climate change is going on or is man made, however those attempts to discredit the science have been reduced greatly by the Koch led study into whether or not global warming is real.

The other big blow to climate change science, the ‘climategate’ scandal, and other attempts to discredit the science by big energy such as the attempts to teach climate change denial curriculum in public school science classes, most scientists currently are careful not to link specific weather events to climate change trends due to the complexity of determining and proving such findings. Recently however, NASA’s James Hansen and two colleagues from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University have taken that plunge into uncharted shark infested waters. They’ve gathered data they say shows that the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma heat wave, as well as the deadly Moscow heat and fires in 2010 were in fact “a consequence of global warming because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.”

Their conclusions are based on more than 50 years of temperature data, Hansen told InsideClimate News. By comparing the recent shift toward extreme high summer temperatures with that data, he said his group was able to demonstrate that the record-breaking 2011 Texas heat wave wouldn’t have occurred without global warming. This data also provides a broader context for the summer of 2011, which across the United States was the second warmest on record, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Extremes Index twice the historical average.

texas heat wave drought monitor 2011

Texas heat wave & drought monitor 2011

Making a connection between the Texas heat wave and climate change could have profound practical and policy implications because, as Hansen and his colleagues write, the global warming trend “has been attributed with a high degree of confidence to human-made greenhouse gases.”

Hansen has posted a draft of the new study, Perceptions of Climate Change: The New Climate Dice, on his website and is circulating it to colleagues for comment, a practice he has followed with other research which is standard operating procedure (SOP) for the scientific community fyi. Meanwhile, NASA’s Goddard Institute has posted to the institution’s website the scientists’ analysis of 2011 temperature data that NASA ranks 2011 ninth-warmest year ever recorded, which was an analysis that Hansen and his colleagues also used in their new study.

Hansen, who directs the Goddard Institute, has become a target for climate change skeptics who claim his activism undermines his science. But his scientific standing is so solid that his research continues to be published in respected scientific journals, including Environmental Science & Technology, Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics and the Review of Geophysics.

Hansen stated the following about his new study: “Our paper deals with the frequency of hot seasons, mainly hot summers, because that is the most important season. The times and places with hot summers tend to be where the weather is dominated by high pressure, so there is high correspondence between the [extremely hot outliers or extreme] heat waves and drought conditions. They also point out that in the summer, when most biological productivity occurs, is the most important season for humanity and thus the season when global warming may have its biggest impact.”

The Texas drought is now the most expensive ever on record, having caused more than $5 billion in damages. The latest outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that the Texas drought will persist across much of Texas at least through the end of April 2012.

Other climate scientists say that while the data that Hansen and his cohorts have gathered is solid, they’re not yet ready to draw such a definitive conclusion.

Don Wuebbles, professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois, and has also been a research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and he shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated the following about the paper:

“The paper makes key arguments, but we haven’t yet done the definitive analysis. It used to be that when an event like that [the Texas heat wave] would happen, a scientist would say ‘We can’t say if that change is because of climate change,’ but because of new analysis that looks at the probability of such an event occurring, we can say the likelihood of such an event occurring is greatly increased because of climate change. What’s new in the Hansen paper, is tying a specific event to climate change patterns.”

Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, thinks it’s still too early to draw firm conclusions about the cause of the Texas heat wave. He also warned that the high Texas temperatures can’t automatically be linked with the drought.

“The planet as a whole is warming as a result of greenhouse gases. That science is very solid, but we don’t fully understand the variation from place to place.”

Although the year that ended on September 30, 2011 was the driest recorded in Texas since 1985, Hoerling said the extreme absence of moisture resulted from a La Niña cycle event that kept summer tropical storm precipitation from falling on Texas. He acknowledged that the drought has been exacerbated by the extreme summer temperatures. But he said the heat wave “could not have been anticipated” despite the global warming trends. He explained that while the planet has warmed 1 degree Celsius over the past century, Texas has not had a comparable temperature increase, so what happened in 2011 couldn’t have been predicted. “What happened in Texas is uniquely related to variability. Not all places are warming at the same rate,” said Hoerling.

Hansen pointed out that his group’s study focused only on temperature data, because at this point there isn’t enough data to do a comparable analysis of precipitation. But given what is known, he said “there is every reason to believe that the trend toward greater variability, larger anomalies, is true for precipitation as well as temperature.”

Temperature greatly influences how much water vapor air can hold, he explained, and “there are multiple indications that moisture falls in more extreme events as the planet warms.

“We can expect that 100-year floods and 500-year floods will be occurring much more frequently than they did in earlier climatology,” he said, but “that is not what our paper deals with.”

What the paper does focus on, Hansen said, is determining whether extreme weather events like this can be attributed to climate variability, the natural ups and downs in seasonal temperature or to the global upward trend in summer temperatures that science now links with global warming.

How this paper will be received remains to be seen. A spokesperson for Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a leading Congressional climate change skeptic, is already discounting the study because of Hansen’s participation.

Matt Dempsey, communications director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Minority office, which Inhofe leads stated: “Hansen has lost a lot of credibility ever since he’s moved to be more of an activist than a scientist. The American people have rejected alarmism on global warming. Global warming has all but gone away on Capitol Hill.”

Dempsey also dismissed the IPCC’s conclusion, drawn from the work of hundreds of scientists worldwide, that global warming is unequivocal and can be attributed to the increase in greenhouse gasses that are rising due to human activity.

The problem is that Global warning: climate sceptics are winning the battle , and there is not much time left to win the battle before we see much worse extreme weather events being downplayed by the likes of James Inhofe on payroll of Koch brothers, among others. Climatologist James Hansen on “Cowards in Our Democracies” also sees the battle as being uphill. The rest of the world views it as a real problem, with only Americans being gullible enough to fall for the conspiracy to discredit any science or proof that man made global warming is real however.

Resources:

Inside Climate News

With that being said, the Texas heat wave and drought linked to rapid global climate change by NASA’s James Hansen’s new paper may just get tossed, however we would like to note that all climate models do project the American southwest becoming an arid desert over the next few decades, and some say that it is already in the process of becoming one, so this may well be another solid example of that projection ringing true.

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