You may recall last year that Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe’s grandchildren built an igloo to mock a killer snowstorm, calling it “Al Gore’s New Home.” Of course, extreme precipitation is precisely what we expect from human-caused global warming, but the story still got a lot of play in the media.
What’s more ironic is that the Senate’s leading climate denier bailed on the annual Heartland climate science denial conference this morning — saying “I am under the weather” (!) — just as his home state is being slammed by a record-smashing heat wave and a drought more severe than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Yes, I know, it’s just coincidence, not karmic backlash. But then again, climate science projects a permanent dust bowl for the Southwest if we keep listening to Inhofe. It also projects that by century’s end, the state will be above 90 degrees F for 135 days a year!
What’s also ironic is just yesterday I pointed out that the Texas drought is so bad that “in Austin, they are praying for a hurricane.” Incredibly, meteorologist Stephen Mullens, aka Oklahoma City Weather Examiner, writes in his Wednesday post:
It seems the only hope of rain would be for a hurricane to hit the Texas coast and travel northward to Oklahoma. That path is a fairly common one. Fortunately, the scientists at Colorado State University have predicted a 50 percent probability that the Texas coast will be hit by a hurricane this year.
No, I don’t think one should use the word “fortunately” to describe a hurricane hitting Texas. But it is a measure of the desperation felt by a state that is three quarters covered by severe drought and that has been above 90 for the entire month.
Mullens gives us some of the amazing statistics of this Oklahoma heat wave:
Today marks the 29th consecutive day over 90. That is a record.
Today is forecast to be the 10th day above 100 in June. That is a record.
Today marks the 34th consecutive day above normal.
June 2011 set or tied single-day record high temperatures on the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 27th. Those record temperatures were 103, 104, 101, and 103 degrees, respectively.
This exceptional heatwave (and drought) would in fact be a rather normal June in the second half of this century if Inhofe and his ilk continue to succeed in duping the nation into inaction, as the 2009 NOAA-led impacts report projected:
Back in October, the National Center for Atmospheric Research published a complete literature review, “Drought under global warming: a review.” That study makes clear that Dust-Bowlification may well devastate the Mid- and Southwest even on a moderate emissions path, as the figure below suggests (click to enlarge; a reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought):
The PDSI [Palmer Drought Severity Index] in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly [PDF] to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade. NCAR explains:
The large-scale pattern shown in Figure 11 [of which the figure above is part] appears to be a robust response to increased GHGs. This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling Figure 11, a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades over the whole United States, southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and most of Africa.
NCAR adds “By the end of the century, many populated areas, including parts of the United States, could face readings in the range of -8 to -10, and much of the Mediterranean could fall to -15 to -20. Such readings would be almost unprecedented.”
For the record, the NCAR study merely models the IPCC’s “moderate” A1B scenario: atmospheric concentrations of CO2 around 520 parts per million (ppm) in 2050 and 700 in 2100 (up from 390 now). We’re currently headed somewhere between the A2 and A1FI pathway, which would takes us to 850 and 1000 ppm by century’s end.
TPM reports of Inhofe:
He couldn’t make it, but did make sure some words got through. “It is my hope that over the next two days you will take a little time to note the tremendous successes we have enjoyed,” Inhofe told attendees in a statement. “Today the mood in Washington is significantly different.”
What Inhofe labels as “tremendous successes” are his efforts to kill bills aimed at preserving a livable climate, thereby increasing both the likelihood and severity of future catastrophic climate impacts for billions of people at home and around the globe.
This amoral hubris won’t result in any punishment by the gods of Greek myth, but it will in all likelihood render his home state a super-hot, deserted, uber-dustbowl for a long, long, long time.