Monday, July 30, 2012
‘This Is Not Cool’ Focus on 2012 Weather Extremes
Drought-stressed and wilting corn fields symbolic of widespread conditions across much of the U.S. ‘Grain Belt.’
A basketball metaphor illustrating changing stats pairs with analyses from a range of experts and independent commentaries in a Yale Forum video capturing the stresses of the summer’s weather anomalies across the U.S.
“Oh the weather outside is frightful.”
You can forget about the next line … chances of snow are nil for most of the United States for the next several months.
It’s the first line of the second verse that might be a bit more relevant, though not very comforting: “It doesn’t show signs of stopping.”
Holiday carolers and those behind the “Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow” lyrics could not have had the nation’s 2012 spring and summer in mind when they penned those words.
But the wildfires plaguing much of the nation’s west … the wilting and widespread droughts across much of the country’s “Grain Belt”… the blistering high temperatures across wide swaths of the country — all those play out in The Yale Forum‘s new video, “2012 Drought Update.”
The eight-and-one-half minute video couples historical footage with contemporary clips and news segments. In one of the latter, for instance, NBC anchor Brian Williams opens the network’s flagship news program with the words: “It’s now official. We are living in one of the worst droughts of the past 100 years.”
This month’s “This Is Not Cool” video shows NASA scientist James Hansen early and later cautioning about risks of “extreme droughts” in the nation’s breadbasket, such as those now commanding headlines. It captures Illinois Governor Pat Quinn warning of “the driest time” and “the hottest weather” in his state’s history. West Lafayette, Indiana, newscasters express concerns about the growing percentage of the nation officially designated as being in a “drought condition.”
NOAA climate scientist Tom Karl tells a national television audience that scientists increasingly “can actually say with some confidence that these events would not have been as strong or as intense if it were not for the greenhouse gases I the atmosphere.”
And a Michigan State University crop and soil scientist, Phil Robertson, cautions that “it’s certainly not looking good for corn.” Robertson advises that genetics and new planting strategies might help the agricultural community cope with chronic changes in weather. But it’s the variability of longer heat waves and hard-to-predict seasonal droughts — more difficult to predict and having more critical effects on crops — that Robertson says might pose particular challenges.
The video — which points to a 118 degrees F day in June in Norton Dam, Kansas — uses a basketball metaphor to illustrate how a warmer atmosphere has “raised the floor …. all plays are starting from a higher level.” Making for more slam dunks and illustrating how “the stats have begun to change.”
But they’re not of the crowd-pleasing variety. And no one is rooting for more of the kinds of slam dunks Midwest farmers are trying to defend against in the summer of 2012.
The Drought of 2012 rivals the Great Dust Bowl years of the 30s and is coming at a time of melting arctic ice, shrinking ice sheets, and extreme events across the planet, matching the projections of Climate models for global warming.