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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 06/17/2008

Freedman: Explaining an Extreme Spring

By Andrew Freedman

This spring's weather sounds like it was crafted from a pitch meeting between a hapless Hollywood screenwriter and a studio executive. The pitch? "It's a movie in which flooding inundates downtown middle America, tornadoes strike boy scouts, strong winds lash the nation's capital, and record heat wave has New Yorkers sweltering in early June. And no one really knows why... or do they?"

Any minute now I'm expecting Dennis Quaid to emerge from an office in Washington and walk to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to rescue his son who is trapped in a library surrounded by rising floodwaters.

Keep reading to learn if climate change is impacting severe weather trends. See Matt's forecast for local weather details through the weekend.

Unfortunately however, this is reality, which any resident of Cedar Rapids, Picher, Oklahoma, or Parkersburg, Iowa, can tell you. Different forms of extreme weather have devastated all of these communities this summer. The tornado season has stunned veteran forecasters, who are running out of red dots to put on maps to mark the locations of tornado touchdowns. And the floods are beginning to look like an early season rival to the epic floods of 1993.

Given mounting concerns about global climate change due to human activities, it's difficult not to look at such strange and damaging and wonder: "Did we do that?"

As it is with most facets of climate science, the answer is somewhat complicated. 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.

For example, scientists are increasingly confident in their conclusions that statistically speaking, extreme precipitation events in many areas, including the United States, have already become more frequent. In its most recent report, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that climate change caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, is "very likely" to increase the frequency of "hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events." The panel also stated that the changes in the frequency and severity of extreme events would be detrimental to both natural and human systems.

Yet that is not often the message that gets through to the public from official sources. For example, in an Associated Press story last week about the Iowa floods, Brian Pearce, a National Weather Service meteorologist, stated: "We are seeing a historic hydrological event taking place with unprecedented river levels occurring."

"We're in uncharted territory -- this is an event beyond what anybody could even imagine."

Perhaps Pearce went on to say more and just wasn't quoted as such in the story. But there could be another sentence after that which would be both consistent with the state of climate science and would help individuals put the flooding into perspective in light of what they're hearing about global warming.

That sentence might go something along the lines of: "While this flooding event cannot be attributed to global climate change, extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent, and are expected to become more frequent and severe due to global warming." That would be in line with the science as expressed by the authoritative IPCC. It would also be consistent with the approach that other countries have taken to contextualizing extreme events within the reality of climate change. When there are extreme events in the U.K., for example, their version of the National Weather Service (known as the U.K. Met Office) often mentions climate change prominently in its public statements.

There is a need for climate scientists and the media to work together to ensure that the scientific evidence for the relationship between extreme weather and climate change is communicated accurately, fairly, and without political distortion. This is difficult to do during breaking weather events.

But if it's apparent to everyday people that there may be a connection between flooded crops and greenhouse gas emissions, or between a leveled town and global warming, then maybe it's a sign that scientists, government officials and the media should be speaking to it in a more concerted and constructive way.

There is some appetite for such an effort, although it's somewhat tainted by partisanship. The liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, for example, has complained that the media is not doing enough to link the extreme weather this season to climate change.

"Although the deadly weather has been front-page news all season, and news channels dedicate hours of coverage to "Extreme Weather," the media are strangely reluctant to discuss severe weather events in the context of climate change," declared a recent post on the organization's Web site.

However, it's not clear whether it's the media, with its well-known appetite for sensationalism, that is holding itself back from exploring a link between extreme weather and climate change. There is also resistance from government information sources as well as from many scientists who may be reluctant to be more assertive on the subject lest they get pilloried by politicians.

The bottom line is that despite the uncertainties that pervade climate science, the research is clear enough on many points to be able to paint a more complete picture for the public when extreme events occur. Will scientists and the media produce the portrait even if there are more grays than black and whites?

By Andrew Freedman  | June 17, 2008; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman  
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Comments

Problem in discussing climate change with the public is that it's science, so everything is qualified and detailed as it should be. But Joe Average's eyes glaze over by the 3rd 3-syllable word. But in good conscience, scientists can't just dumb it down and say "yes, it's climate change". So all of the nuance and qualifications are taken to mean LACK of certainty (to a certain not-very-bright but very common demographic) rather than the covered-all-bases certainty smart people see it as...

Meanwhile, the anti-science folks CAN dumb it down and say "god done do it" and all of THEIR audience can follow that.

I think this explains the divide on understanding climate change. :)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 17, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Were "New Yorkers" the only ones sweltering in early June? Why highlight that one city of the many that endured the heat wave? This is the Washington Post, not the New York Post.

Posted by: New Yorkers? | June 17, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

New Yorkers? -- I think Andrew was just going for some variety in the Hollywood pitch. He used strong winds for the Washington (nation's capital) example, so used New York for the heat.

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | June 17, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Which is sadder: that the greeners are using the recent weather events to fuel their argument on global warming, or that I actually get the reference to "The Day After Tomorrow" that Andrew use? Gee, I try really hard to not be a nerd, or geek, but no matter how much makeup I put on and no matter how many fashion mags I read, I guess I'm still a geek princess at heart.

Posted by: weather girl | June 17, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

You neglected one other unusual climate event in the last 2 weeks, it snowed in the cascades down at 3,000 feet and it was snowing in Idaho and Montana. While this is not unprecedented (it happened 30 years ago) it is very unusual. Perhaps another explanation is in order, strong gradients from cold in the west, hot in the east and wild in the middle. You might also recall that the wild weather in 1993 was not long after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo which provided a temporary cooling blip and we (the US) are coming off a very cool spring this year. While a lot of climate change physicists look forward, there are many more meteorologists looking at the weather today and finding analogies in the past and the type of weather they are seeing are more more a consequence of La Nina Pacific ocean temps and the cooling often associated with them.

Posted by: Sean | June 17, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I think the main point is that while you can't attribute one single event to climate change, you CAN say that that recent events are *consisent* ("consistent" is the operative word) with research that shows climate change is associated with increase in the frequency of extreme weather.

So, indeed it is completely justified to ask whether the recent increase in severe weather is emblematic of recent climate change. I agree with Andrew that the media SHOULD point out that these two things aren't altogether inconsistent.

You have to raise your eyebrows at this:
http://www.spc.noaa.gov/wcm/torgraph-big.png

Something tells me population growth doesn't explain this sort of increase.

Posted by: climo | June 17, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse


Why havent the hurricanes gotten the Gore Memo on "Climate Change"?....maybe they are taking time off to figure out whether or not the dramtic shift of global doomsdayers rhetoric from "global warming" to "global change" means they need to intensify in strength and numbers or decrease. Luckily the doomsdayers have both avenues covered.

Please answer why I should be worried about a flood when every civilization on earth traces its roots back to a flood story. Carbon emissions of the pharoes? Excessive Greenhouse gas put off in the Indus River Valley.....maybe secretly Noah was using aerosal hairsprays for that "just enlightened" look?

Posted by: PK | June 17, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Putting PK's sarcasm aside, he has a point - flooding has occured throughout history. Floods are actually much more rare now than they used to be, since so many river systems are now managed by humans through dams and reservoirs. Flooding is actually a completely natural part of the Earth's cycle.

I would advocate NOT putting a statement like Mr. Freedman's in weather statements (not that they ever would, probably). What he suggests is no different than Al Gore and John Kerry blaming individual weather events squarely on global warming, and it takes the public's attention away form where it should be, on the long-term trends. If we start connecting floods with global warming, a few years of drought will give the skeptics more arguments about why climate change isn't happening. Plus, if scientists then begin also connecting those drought years to climate change, the public will be thoroughly confused, and likely, more skeptical.

Focus on long-term trends, ocean temperatures and the polar ice caps - not today's temperatures at National (which, I might note, are 5 degrees or so below average).

Posted by: Southside FFX | June 17, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

It's nearly impossible to establish any weather events as "unusual" in historic context because any recorded history of climate and weather events is recent in relation to age of the planet. There is not an old enough record of weather to establish any "normal" weather patterns. Therefore, it stands to reason that recent events and meteorological fluctuations such as those we are experiencing are typical within the context of the ancient history of our planet.

Posted by: RJ | June 17, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: climo | June 17, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Believers, please look at this chart -
http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Satellite_since_2002.jpg

ALL of the temperature increases associated with global warming have completely reversed.

At present, there is no global warming. There used to be global warming. But that has passed. We are currently experiencing global cooling.


Posted by: Mr. Q. | June 17, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

So are you asserting because there is a short term decline in global temperature that counters a 100+ year trend of increased temperatures? When I look at long term data there are short term periods of increasing and decreasing temperatures all over the data so if this is your proof that the trend has stopped I don't see it. That's just normal variability in the data. The trend is the global warming not the periods of variability.

Posted by: John | June 17, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse


Context part 2.

Increased # of tornados come from increased ability to detect them. They do not have to drop on Civilization to be detected anymore. (I know the spread of civilization was mentioned before, but not the technology. I mean we Got Doppler Storm Force Nano Niner technology that can show us when La Plata is going to be crushed at least 10 minutes before its actually crushed by a tornado)

Who is to say that the year of 1825 wasnt worse in terms of tornado's? We drove off all the indians who could of told us about it.

o crap now I feel guilty about the indians as well as al gore's guilt trips.

Posted by: PK | June 17, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

In regard to the satellite traces used to argue we're experiencing global cooling now: it's obvious that the variability in the temperature traces are to large to support a meaningful trend. In any event the net "cooling" along the trend line from 2002 to 2008 is less than .1 deg, degrees, which is smaller than than the intrinsic accuracy of measurement accuracy of either type of satellite sounding. Be very wary of any conclusions based on remote sounding data unless you know something about them.

Posted by: Steve Tracton, Capital Weather Gang | June 17, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

No offense John but Greenland used to be Green. Hence the name. Maybe ice doesnt belong on it. Let me ask Gaia.

I bet you all your hundred years of BS trend is showing is a warm up from a cool off. I will ask Gaia that too.

I will get back to you, I am scratching the questions in the ground in my back yard as I type. I cant wait for the answer.

Posted by: PK | June 17, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

"100+ year trend of increased temperatures"?!?!

Apparently you have never heard of the 1930's. You should do a little more research.

No, I figured since Mr. Freedman and a previous poster want to focus on the last few years, I should do the same. Turnabout is fair play and all that jazz.

But if you want to talk long term, I am fine with that. Let's talk REALLY long term. Let's go REAL big picture. What say yea?

Let's not look at the last 100 years. Let's look at the last 1,000.

http://earth.usc.edu/~stott/public_html/PNG%20figures/Mideaval%20warm%20period.png

Ewwwww, look at the big scary global warming.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | June 17, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

sorry about previous typos

In regard to the satellite traces used to argue we're experiencing global cooling now: it's obvious that the variability in the temperature traces are to large to support a meaningful trend. In any event the net "cooling" along the trend line from 2002 to 2008 is less than .1 deg, which is smaller than than the intrinsic accuracy of either type of satellite sounding. Be very wary of any conclusions based on remote sounding data unless you know something about them.

Posted by: Steve Tracton, Capital Weather Gang | June 17, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse


Steve, I dont speak Dork. Please translate the previous post.

Posted by: PK | June 17, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I mean here is how I read it:

The instruments used to prove my point are better than the instruments you use to prove your point Mr. Q! Ha Ha!

Even if you do have good instruments, look at what they are showing...barely any cooling at all! Dont mind the fact that they dont show any cataclismic warming, let alone any warming period.

Why did I waste my major in college?

Posted by: PK | June 17, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

In non-"dork" language think of it this way: if you hear Obama is polling 48% and McCain 47% and the margin of error is 3%, then the difference between them is not significant - within the margin of error.

An example of how NOT to communicate information on global warming was beautifully interested by Scientific American. On Monday, their headline was "Mending Ozone Hole May Worsen Climate Change". On Tuesday the headline was changed to:" Mending Ozone Hole May Benefit Climate Change" along with the following apology appended: "We regret the misunderstanding created by the original headline and wording of this article, which stated that mending the ozone layer could speed climate change.
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=mending-ozone-good-for-global-warming


Posted by: Steve Tracton, Capital Weather Gang | June 17, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I will take the RSS data over Dr. Hansen's data any day of the week!!

Dr. Hansen, the loudest voice in the man made global warming camp, routinely massages his/NASA's temperature numbers. I wrote about this last week, but perhaps some people didn't see it.

Read this article -
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/06/05/goddard_nasa_thermometer/print.html

and then tell me which data you would trust. I know which numbers I trust, and it isn't the numbers that Dr. Hansen has toyed with.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | June 17, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Steve

Thank you for translating. Putting it into easily understood political jargin helps immensely.

Editor's Note:

I would say that your hypothetical is an MSNBC poll. And in this hypothetical report I am about to get a diatribe from a wanna be Alex Trebek named Keith Olbermann. Got none of the answers...all of the snarpyness.

But you did invoke Obama...so I must stand down for the rest of the day.

Posted by: PK | June 17, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

PK, either take the time to do the background research and learning necessary to understand how data are obtained and analyzed, or preface every one of your postings with the following disclaimer:

"I am a prejudiced Luddite who will not allow his core beliefs to be distracted by data."

Posted by: Sasquatch | June 17, 2008 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Why yes, I have heard of the 1930s, the 40s and 50s to name a few and many other decades too. Mr. Q claims to want to deal with facts, but when they don't fit his point of view he attacks. He complains about people cherry picking data and he does the very same thing.

My original post asserted there were periods or both warming and cooling but the overall trend was warming. Here is the plot of the data I was referencing.

http://geology.com/news/images/global-warming-graph.jpg
(I am sure there will be some issue with that data as well.)

I never said temperatures were monotonically increasing or without variation. I did say there was a trend evident in the data. I did say there was variability. What you didn't do Mr. Q is answer the question I asked. So I will try to ask it another way - Given the inherent variability in the data how can you say this trend is reversing and with what certainty?

Posted by: John | June 17, 2008 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Wild weather? Just go back to 1977. Late January brought snow squalls to Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and a rain/snow mixture out in the Bahamas. Canadian-sourced cold fronts crossed the equator.(No, I'm not kidding). Many of you guys aren't old enough to remember it....I am. And, in those days, they were predicting another Ice Age with glaciers, not global "warming".....Al Gore in reverse.

So, pardon me if I chuckle at this "extreme" spring. The only thing that has really gotten out of hand is the number of tornedoes and severe storms (including our DC area)......brought about by a south-of-normal jet stream and storm track, with repeated cold frontal passages. The only real heat was for 3 or four days last week.

Posted by: Mike | June 17, 2008 9:26 PM | Report abuse

QUOTE:
However, it's not clear whether it's the media, with its well-known appetite for sensationalism, that is holding itself back from exploring a link between extreme weather and climate change. There is also resistance from government information sources as well as from many scientists who may be reluctant to be more assertive on the subject lest they get pilloried by politicians. UNQUOTE

Andrew: They are not reluctant to be more "assertive" because of getting "pillored by politicians", but because of facts. Climate always "changes". If it DIDN'T, there would be no need for forecasters. See my post above on the unbelievable year of 1977....I still remember it well.

Posted by: Mike | June 17, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Southside FFX: You seemed to imply in your comments that neither floods nor droughts can be linked to long-term climate change. I don't think that's the case, since scientists I have spoken with say that both flooding (heavier precip) and droughts (less precip) would be consequences of a warming world. Many scientists believe that global warming will mean that wet areas get wetter, and dry areas get drier.

That said, however, I understand your caution in not wanting to link every extreme weather event to climate change. I agree with you that the long-term trends are very important, it's just that maybe, with certain extreme events, the long-term trends already are telling us something.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | June 17, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Mike and Sean: Thanks for bringing up the issue of natural weather/climate variability in the context of climate change. It's a tricky area, since it's clear what weather factors have gone into creating the severe weather outbreaks this winter/spring/summer, but the longer term picture is a bit fuzzier. That doesn't mean certain things can't be gleaned from the background of weather noise, however.

Maybe the floods have nothing to do with warming, but studies have shown that the frequency of heavy precipitation events in North America has been increasing in recent decades, and that this trend may be related to climate change. Not including this information when communicating about the current Midwest floods, with the necessary caveats about uncertainty, is somewhat misleading.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | June 17, 2008 10:05 PM | Report abuse

John, where to start?

You wrote, "Mr. Q claims to want to deal with facts, but when they don't fit his point of view he attacks."

I don't attack. I may disagree vehemently, but I don't attack. It is called freedom of speech, and I intend to continue to exercise it. Get used to it.

You asked, "Given the inherent variability in the data how can you say this trend is reversing and with what certainty?"

Let me make sure I understand - Mr. Freedman talks about Hollywood and tries to tie that in with reality, and that doesn't warrant a peep out of you. Mr. Freedman tries to tie weather events as recent as 30 days ago to global warming, and you are totally silent. On a side note, does anyone else find that repulsive? I mean seriously, using the misery and suffering of those misfortunate enough to have suffered a flood or a hurricane to promote his own personal agenda? How low can one can go? I feel like I am watching the lawyer run after the ambulance.

But I digress... Another commenter linked to a tornado chart that only covered a 10 year period, and you are quiet as a mouse.

But when I mockingly use a temperature chart that only spanned 6 years, well then THAT gets a response out of you. No double standards here! Nothing to see. Move along.

What if I reject your 120 year chart? You opted to reject my 6 year chart. Why must I accept your time period? Because it finds your agenda? I'll pass.

I reject your 120 year chart. That is too short of a time period. I will stick with my 1,000 year chart. And, according to my 1,000 year chart, there hasn't been any global warming in over 800 years.

http://earth.usc.edu/~stott/public_html/PNG%20figures/Mideaval%20warm%20period.png


Posted by: Mr. Q. | June 18, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Your asking if I heard of the 1930's was more attack than analysis. I didn't "reject" your data, I interpreted is as normal variability.

I asked you to explain your assertions about that data - which again you didn't. Shocked? No. That's the way you do things that's very clear. I have gotten used to it. But, it doesn't mean you have a free pass to post 6 years of data and claim global warming is over. Get used to it.

Let's try a third time. You wrote:
"Believers, please look at this chart -
http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Satellite_since_2002.jpg

ALL of the temperature increases associated with global warming have completely reversed.

At present, there is no global warming. There used to be global warming. But that has passed. We are currently experiencing global cooling."

I'm not a "believer" but I still looked at the data you presented. And your interpretation of it. I don't agree with your assertion. My interpretation of that data is that it show normal variability at best. You made the claim it represents global cooling. So let's try a third time: With what certainty do you have that the data you presented represents global cooling?

Of course, you've not answered that. You instead show different data and avoid the question repeatedly. I don't have an agenda, but it's clear you do.

Posted by: John | June 18, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, once again you have resorted to personal attacks in order to get your point across (while trying to defend yourself against charges of making personal attacks).

There is no ambulance chasing here. I am simply pointing out that historic flooding on the scale of what is currently being seen in the Midwest is consistent with some of the scientific evidence of global climate change. It is not a personal agenda to discuss what climate science tells us about record flooding events, nor is it taking advantage of the suffering of the people of Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri etc. I'd suggest that you take it down a notch if you want to continue contributing to this forum.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | June 18, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Q, my comment shouldn't be read as a threat to ban you from the forum, btw, just a suggestion that if you want people, including myself, to respond constructively to your comments, then laying off the personal assaults would be a wise course of action. That's all.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | June 18, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

PK, either take the time to do the background research and learning necessary to understand how data are obtained and analyzed, or preface every one of your postings with the following disclaimer:

"I am a prejudiced Luddite who will not allow his core beliefs to be distracted by data."


Actually Sasquatch it was a rhetorical comment. You dont think I actually would profess a lack of understanding of the mechanics of what I am speaking on? Would make responses like yours a little too easy in creation.

And a Luddite is someone who attacked because the industrial revolution threatened their livlihood.

The only people on this board who panic from a threat to their livlihood are the global alarmists. Without inspiring panic, they lose their soap box and present societal value and stature.

My core values are natural selection sprinkled,in the case of humans, with some divine intervention. Am I so out of touch?

Posted by: PK | June 18, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: PK | June 18, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Andrew,

Why do you place so much credibility on the IPCC report, which was written by politicians, not scientists?

Secondarily - looking at all the data presented here, it appears as if the warming trend (part natural, part man-made) has at a minimum taken a break since 2002. The variation in the measurements is not enough to definitively show a decline, but by the same token it clearly shows that warming has stalled. This contradicts ALL the models of our most eminent climate scientists. Do you have any references that try to explain this apparent contradiction?

Posted by: RM | June 18, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

The flood damage in the mid-west is tragic for those who live, work and farm in flood zones of several river systems in the mid-west and south.

These floods are due to regional weather that produced near record snow packs in the headwaters of several river systems coupled with a delayed spring melt off. Weather, not climate change, is the driving force.

Much of the damage results from flood control measures like levees that exacerbate rather than mitigate the flood damage.

Before the Corps of Engineers decided to play God by construction dikes and levees, waters spread out over the flood zone in shallow sheet floods. Now when flood control infrastructure fails, the depth of flood water is much greater and more concentrated. More and higher levees increases the risk and cost of catastrophic damage. Every time we have a harsh winter and heavy snow accumulations
there is a prospect of a 100 year flood or worse.

What used to be millions of acres of riparian wetlands have becomes farms, towns and commercial/industrial areas. Nothing will change as long as people continue to live in flood zones, which is the grim reality of that choice.

Posted by: Paddy | June 18, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

RM: The issue of whether global warming has "stopped" has been talked about quite a bit recently. The folks at realclimate touched on it, as did the Yale Climate Media Forum.

And the IPCC reports are not written by politicians, they are written by scientists, and political representatives must approve the summary for policymakers. The summary has to be consistent with the scientific content of the main reports, and scientists are there to ensure that the science is not distorted or manipulated for political purposes. Of course, some political posturing is bound to be persuasive, but overall the scientists I've interviewed who have been part of the IPCC process praise its procedures for accuracy and don't think political interference is a major issue.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | June 18, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Another, more probable influence than global warming is the redesign of water-absorption and water-holding geological features by farmers and towns as they exploit natural resources. Parking lots replace soil and, farmers put drains under their farms to lower the water table and straighten out streams and creeks. These and other uses of the land create massive runoffs.

Also, previous floods could spread out over the lowlands near rivers and rivers then had a near-constant input through the length of the river. Now, levees are forcing more water through the same area with downstream communities having to hold back not only the local watershed, but the upstream waters as well.

If we keep this up, eventually we're gonna have to build 60ft dams along the entire Mississippi river and all it's tributaries. So, why not just accept the fact of regular floods? If you live in a flood plain build your houses on stilts. If you farm in a lowland area, take the insurance payout for lost crops, and let the river re-fertilize the land. Frankly, micro-managing nature is just not possible with any amount of money, effort, or good intentions.

Lastly, stop trying to tie every weather event to the global warming bogeyman and look further than the politically easy answer.

Posted by: Doug Fingles | June 19, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Doug, you made some very valid points regarding the ways people have influenced the flood regime in Iowa and elsewhere. There is an interesting Washington Post article on this matter in the paper today. Climate change will interact with human systems to cause a variety of outcomes, so a more complete answer to this would be to say that both the factors you mentioned and the climate change factors I discussed may be playing a role in the flooding.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | June 19, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Is climate change always bad? Its portrayed as such in the media. One thing is constant on earth, our climate has changed considerably over time before we even started influencing it. Global warming must have some positive impacts as well, such as increased arable land in Canada/Russia to help feed the world, no? It would be nice to see a more balanced or two-sided approach instead of blaming everything on man-made global warming.

Posted by: RJ | June 24, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

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