Heat Wave Madness: Right-Wingers Call it a Liberal Conspiracy, States Cut Programs That Help People Keep the AC On
One of the most brutal heatwaves in recent memory has been met with denial by right-wingers (see “Limbaugh Calls Heat Index a Liberal Government Conspiracy“).
Now, the Washington Post reports that “Many states hit hardest by this week’s searing heat wave have drastically cut or entirely eliminated programs that help poor people pay their electric bills, forcing thousands to go without air conditioning when they need it most. Oklahoma ran out of money in just three days.” Hard to believe we’re the richest country in the world.
The U.S. is, in some sense, being slammed by two different heatwaves – a tropical heatwave with staggering humidity that is driving up the heat index to deadly levels and a ‘subtropical heatwave’ with staggering aridity that turns a drought into a Dust Bowl.
Of the tropical heat wave, meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters writes:
Wunderground’s climate change blogger Dr. Ricky Roodin his latest post, [explains that] with hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland still inundated by flood waters, and soils saturated over much of the Upper Midwest, there has been plenty of water available to evaporate into the air and cause remarkably high humdities. This makes for a very dangerous situation, as the human body is not able to cool itself as efficiently when the humidity is high.
At the same time, it is a basic prediction of climate science that the subtropics will expand (see the Geophysical Research Letters paper “Cause of the widening of the tropical belt since 1958“). I used to call that desertification until some readers pointed out that some deserts are full of life, which isn’t where we’re headed. That’s why I now call it Dust-Bowlification.
Speaking of Dust Bowls, I noted last week that the Texas drought is now far, far worse than when Gov. Rick Perry issued a Proclamationcalling on all Texans to pray for rain. The latest U.S. Drought Monitor is out, and, incredibly, the Texas drought got even worse:
Now a stunning 75% of the state is under “exceptional drought” and 91% is under “extreme drought.”
For those of you who think the weather of 2011 is somehow normal or that we’ve seen it before — say, in the 1930s – Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro begs to differ in his piece, “The ridge, heat, humidity, drought, and Dust Bowl“:
What happened in the 1930s and other decades reinforces that there have always been extremes in weather, and there is always natural variability at play. What’s changing nowis the nature of those extremes, and also what’s important is the context.This time, the extreme drought, heat, and wildfires are occurring along with U.S. extremes this year in rainfall, snowfall, flooding, and tornadoes, and many other stunning temperature and precipitation extremes elsewhere in the world in recent years as well as, as I posted on my TWC Facebook “fan” page, record-shattering 500 millibar heights in high latitudes. And all of this is happening while there’s an alarming drop in the amount of Arctic sea ice.
I also recommend a HuffPost piece by water and climate scientist Peter Gleick, “It’s Hotter Than It Used to Be; It’s Not as Hot as It’s Going to Be.”
Finally, Heidi Cullen, a scientist at Climate Central, and author of The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes From a Climate-Changed Planet, has a good NY Times op-ed, “Sizzle Factor for a Restless Climate“:
Drawing from methods used in epidemiology, a field of climate research called “detection and attribution” tests how human actions like burning fossil fuels affect climate and increase the odds of extreme weather events.Heat-trapping pollution at least doubled the likelihood of the infamous European heat wave that killed more than 30,000 people during the summer of 2003, according to a study in the journal Nature in 2004. And if we don’t ease our grip on the climate, summers like that one will likely happen every other year by 2040, the study warned. Human actions have warmed the climate on all seven continents, and as a result all weather is now occurring in an environment that bears humanity’s signature, with warmer air and seas and more moisture than there was just a few decades ago, resulting in more extreme weather.
The snapshots of climate history from NOAA can also provide a glimpse of what’s in store locally in the future. Using climate models, we can project what future Julys might look like. For example, by 2050, assuming we continue to pump heat-trapping pollution into our atmosphere at a rate similar to today’s, New Yorkers can expect the number of July days exceeding 90 degrees to double, and those exceeding 95 degrees to roughly triple. Sweltering days in excess of 100 degrees, rare now, will become a regular feature of the Big Apple’s climate in the 2050s.
In short, get used to it!