Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wet Weather and Global Warming

By Jennifer De Shields

The severe rainstorms New Jersey and the northeastern part of the United States have been experiencing could be linked to global warming. The Associated Press reports:

“The Northeast is seeing more frequent "extreme precipitation events" in line with global warming predictions, a study shows, including storms like the recent fierce rains whose floodwaters swallowed neighborhoods and businesses across New England.

The study does not link last week's devastating floods to its research but examined 60 years' worth of National Weather Service rainfall records in nine Northeastern states and found that storms that produce an inch or more of rain in a day -- a threshold the recent storm far surpassed -- are coming more frequently.

"It's almost like 1 inch of rainfall has become pretty common these days," said Bill Burtis, spokesman for Clean Air-Cool Planet, a global warming education group that released the study Monday along with the University of New Hampshire's Carbon Solutions New England group.

The study referred to in the news article took data from 219 Weather Service reporting stations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Vermont from 1948 to 2007. The result were startling; the report found that in all but 18 out of 219 stations had reported extreme precipitation events (extreme precipitation events are defined as at least one inch of rain or snow falling over a 24 hour period). Very large storms, storms that produce 2-4 inches of precipitation in a 24-hour period, are occurring more regularly in the past. Nearly 64 inches of precipitation has fallen in New Jersey since last April, 17 more inches than the average 47 inches.

Some skeptics aren’t convinced that study shows the unusually wet weather is linked to global warming. In the article, global warming skeptic Patrick Michaels expresses his disbelief.

Michaels, a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, said it would be unfair to use the recent floods as an example of what's in the study.

"You can't take an individual event and say it's a product of a certain trend," Michaels said.
Despite what may be causing the weather, it’s no doubt that these bouts of extreme weather are costing states money. The Associated Press reports:

If you're spending more on dealing with extreme weather events, what does that take away from?" said Ross Gittell, an economics professor at UNH and executive committee member of Carbon Solutions New England.

"Do you have to tax people more and that has a damper on the overall economy?" he said. "... Or does it take away from investments in education that could lead to more productivity and economic growth over time?"

This past winter’s snow removal has cost over 1 million dollars in New Jersey alone. The last rainstorm caused some of the worst damage that the northern part of the state has seen in the past quarter century. The governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island declared a state of emergency due to the heavy rains. Regardless of the cause of this extreme weather, residents and states will need a lot of money, time, and patience to deal with the aftermath. If this weather is a sign of things to come, I’m not looking forward to a stormy, humid, and hot summer.

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