Study: Texas' Hellacious 2011 Summer Is A Prime Example of Loaded Climate Dice

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Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux
Our record-busting summer 2011 continues to be an object of fascination to climate scientists all over the world. Alongside floods in Thailand, drought in Eastern Africa and the European heat wave, the driest, hottest year in recorded Texas history has provided a case study for gauging the influence of climate change on weather extremes.

Researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Oxford and Exeter scrutinized last summer and -- with data from 2008 (the most complete set we have) and comparable La Niña years in the 1960s -- ran them through a set of computer models. When they threw the results on a scatter plot, the spread was dramatic: Texas was 20 times more likely to see heat extremes in 2008 than in years with similar oceanic conditions in the '60s. They found much the same for drought.

"This suggests that conditions leading to droughts such as the one that occurred in Texas in 2011 are, at least in the case of temperature, distinctly more probable than they were 40-50 years ago," says the study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Being ever-cautious scientists, they still offer a bit of equivocation. Tying a specific event like the drought to climate change is now possible, but mostly in terms of probability, the report says. Think of it this way: I know it's a stretch, but imagine a baseball player who's hitting 20 percent more home runs because he's juiced-up. Now, can you attribute any single home run to steroids? Maybe. But what you can definitely say is, all things being equal, each home run is 20 percent more likely to occur.

That's where climate science is now. The kind of drought that continues to hurt Texas' cattle industry and worry municipal water districts is more likely to occur because of climate change. It's this distinction that the authors fear may cause the public to become confused about whether climate change has anything at all to do with the drought. A previous NOAA study put it this way: It's still tricky to blame climate change for the inverse precipitation and temperature extremes we saw last summer. But what we can say for certain is that climate change poured gasoline on the fire.



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9 comments
Gat2keeponmovin
Gat2keeponmovin

Of course the fact that this July has been cooler than average is yet another sign of the omnipotent man made global warming... Or dismissed like any other inconvenient truths..

RTGolden
RTGolden

Does anyone else see the problem with this study's time frame?  Comparing probabilities of higher heat and drought in the '80's and the '60's?  Correlating that to Global Climate Change?  Climate change happens.  It has always happened.  It happens on a grand scale over centuries, has unpredictable effects across decades, and can have effects that change the course of history for millennia.  Or, it can happen quite predictably, 4 times a year, based on the angle of the Earth relative to the Sun (seasonal climate shift).  There are various factors involved in climate change, and human activity would only account for any of the contributing factors of climate change WHEN HUMANS WERE IN EXISTENCE. (Which, coincidentally, only covers a small number of climate shifts.) If climate alarmists want to paint a picture of human contribution as the greatest and single-most damaging contribution to climate change, wouldn't they have to apply that contribution to all know historical climate shifts?  Which would, I think, mean they would have to accept creation theory. (which doesn't support any climate changes really).  I'm not in possession of all the facts on climate change, nor do I need them.  Humans have adapted to climate change in the past, we'll do so again.  Science tells us climate change is inevitable, and history backs them up on it.  "Science" get it wrong as well, in the 80's telling us 'Global Cooling' was leading us into another Ice Age, now telling us Global warming is leading us... where? In the 80's, Science also told us that the Mt. St. Helens eruption spewed more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere in one event, than all the emissions from all the automobiles ever made up to that point.  We've had a pretty active volcanic arena on Earth lately, I wonder how that affects the Global Climate?

Cormagh
Cormagh

Is there any possibility that this article is mixing up what 20% and 20 times, means?

Jay
Jay

The effect of CO2, currently consisting of about 380 parts per million of the atmosphere, actually remains the most controversial aspect of anthropogenic climate change. To put that number in perspective in two dimensions, a football field is 57,600 square feet in area. Current levels of CO2 would represent 22 square feet on that field. CO2 effects climate change, but the scope of that effect is unknown. RTGolden is correct that climate is always changing, we are either entering or exiting an ice age. It is unfortunate that climate science has been hijacked by politics.

JenT
JenT

Yet through all these comments, I wonder, where does hydraulic fracturing for gas releases fit into this pie we must eat, it has been a 10+year event. Unbelievable amounts of water used then too damaged to reuse (say more fires, click). Run off onto land or creeks, evaporation and saturation.  Like the simple pond, change one thing and there is a trickle down effect, not so simple anymore huh.Time and stagnation will show deterioration but time and knowingly proceeding with further destruction will show extreme deterioration events.  It's not rocket science, it's farming.  We reap what is sown by whomever sows it.  That is the point of humanity. Sharing and Caring, Peace, Love and Tolerance. All I am saying, is I hope you wake up. I digress.  Happy tomorrow, hear it's gonna be a hot one.   

Rico
Rico

RTGolden, the part you don't yet buy is the least controversial part.  Nobody denies that human activity has increased CO2 levels dramatically, and nobody denies that CO2 traps heat.  It is reasonable to debate whether various fixes will hurt more than harm (I, for instance, think that cap and trade will slow the economy, thus slowing our pace toward the development of future alternatives), but to deny the link between humans and global temperature shifts...that requires ignoring a lot of data, and common sense.

RTGolden
RTGolden

In that case, point me to the studies that show the link between human activity and the earliest climatic shifts. I'll wait patiently for you to find them. By the way, I don't deny humans have contributed to current climate change.  I deny that humans CAUSE climate change as a sole factor.  Read first, absorb and contemplate, then comment.  You'll look less like a rabid activist.

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