Here's my story on possible land use factors in the Iowa flooding. I'll post some more thoughts later today, along with emails, etc.
A couple of nut graphs:
Officials are still trying to understand all the factors that contributed to Iowa's flooding, and not everyone has the same suspicions as Enshayan. For them, the cause was obvious: It rained buckets and buckets for days on end. They say the changes in land use were lesser factors in what was really just a case of meteorological bad luck.
But some Iowans who study the environment suspect that changes in the land, both recently and over the past century or so, have made Iowa's terrain not only highly profitable but also highly vulnerable to flooding. They know it's a hard case to prove, but they hope to get Iowans thinking about how to reduce the chances of a repeat calamity.
If you're in the DC area you must read the weather-gang blog. I've found it immensely useful when the storm cells are popping up.
Here's Andrew Freeman discussing the possible link between the recent extreme weather and anthropogenic climate change:
'It's well-known that precipitation patterns are likely to shift as a result of climate change, and there are indications that this has already begun to occur. The mechanics of such a shift are rather basic, since a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, which can in turn lead to heavier rainfall events.
'However, the regional impacts of climate change are less certain, and one cannot directly attribute the flooding this year to climate change. But that doesn't mean climate change isn't involved to some extent.'
I think that's expressed exactly right.
We do know that there's regional climate change going on in Iowa and thereabouts. Elwynn Taylor, the meteorology professor at Iowa State, says the entire midwest has been wetter the last 30 years, and that this is part of a cycle that goes back at least 800 years -- visible in tree rings. If it doesn't dry out a little bit in the next few years, he says, then the climate change is something more permanent and not a regional, cyclical phenomenon.
More generally, I think sometimes we look to the sky when we should look at our feet. Climate change isn't the only way that human civilization affects the planet. What about cutting down all the trees and getting rid of all the prairie grass? Tiling the fields? Building in floodplains? Obliterating the wetlands?
Check out this new book:
"The Emerald Horizon rolls back the clock to a time when Iowa was a checkerboard of wetlands that turned seamlessly to oceans of native grasses; when fire, wind, and rivers determined whether prairies or woodlands rose from the rich soil. Mutel shows Iowa as a dynamic, almost breathing life form, altered nearly beyond recognition in just a few decades."
Obama might have Republicans in his Cabinet (Joe Klein via Mike Allen): Obama has said he admires Doris Kearns Goodwin's wonderful Lincoln biography, 'Team of Rivals.' 'He talks about it all the time,' says a top aide. He is particularly intrigued by the notion that Lincoln assembled all the Republicans who had run against him for President in his war Cabinet, some of whom disagreed with him vehemently and persistently. 'The lesson is to not let your ego or grudges get in the way of hiring absolutely the best people,' Obama told me. 'I don't think the American people are fundamentally ideological. They're pragmatic ... and so I have an interest in casting a wide net, seeking out people with a wide range of expertise, including Republicans'..."
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