Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Friday, July 13, 2012

2012 Extreme Weather: Worse Than 2011?

Last year, we watched the withering Texas drought and wildfires with horror. There was plenty of gallows humor, like the roadside sign that read: “Satan called: He wants his weather back.” 41 straight days broke 100 degrees. Farm losses exceeded $7 billion. News reporters baked cookies on car dashboards. Wildfires burned an area the size of Connecticut. Almost 3,000 homes were destroyed by fire. Every record for climate misery in Texas was shattered in 2011.

So how about this year? Well, there’s good news: Texas is doing better. 90% is “abnormally dry” or worse, but only 14% is in “extreme drought.”

So what’s the bad news? Well, you’ve noticed the rest of the country, haven’t you? Here in the Northeast, an extremely cold autumn was followed by an extremely warm and dry winter; which was followed by a hot and dry early spring, and then by a freezing cold early summer. In Colorado, it’s now their turn to endure record wildfires. Last week, I was in the Midwest, watching the corn stalks curl up in the blistering heat.

We can’t see everything, but the U.S. Drought Monitor can. They report that 30% of the Midwest corn crop is now in poor condition; that half the nation’s pastures are also in bad shape; and that in the last 3 weeks, another 2 million acres in the U.S. were burned by wildfires, for a total of 3.1 million acres so far this year (another “Connecticut” up in smoke, and it’s not even August yet).

You can see at a glance what’s happening, if you compare the current U.S. drought map to the map from this time last year. The white area is normal, and now, there’s almost no normal.

The Evangelical Environmental Network Summarized the week’s “Creation Care News” with links to numerous stories on the national drought, wildfires, crop losses, and food price increases. (Visit their website to learn more, or request regular updates.) Evangelicals are becoming increasingly vocal about the threat of human-caused climate change, and this is one of many examples:

EEN’s Creation Care News:

Extreme weather was in the news this week. As the USDA declared over 1,000 counties in 26 states drought disaster zones and NOAA came out with a report linking recent extreme weather with climate change.  After several weeks the fire that's engulfed much of Colorado Springs was mercifully contained, but new fires erupted in Idaho. Also this week some initial reporting on what withered crops throughout the Midwest will likely mean for food prices coming this fall. In other news, Politico had a good overview of the future of clean coal technology, a group of bi-partisan senators including Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) signaled their support for an update in chemical safety law, the RESTORE Act made it's way through the Senate last week (EEN played a key role in getting southern state republicans engaged with the bill), and finally John Elwood has a nice round up of all the evangelical statements in support of action on climate change. 

Some will call people like EEN “alarmists.” I suppose they are, in the strictest sense of the word. But then, so is the U.S. Drought Monitor, USDA, and NOAA – and pretty much anyone else who takes a careful look at the data.

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.

J. Elwood

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