Climate Scientists, Who Are Generally Reluctant to Point Fingers, Link U.S. Drought to Climate Change

#Science

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2012 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

Climate scientists, who generally prefer to speak "in terms of probabilities and trends rather than single events," are having absolutely no problem linking the disastrous U.S. drought -- which has turned "most of the United States into a desiccated hotbox" -- to climate changes caused by human influence.

Public sentiment has already linked the drought, which has turned much of the Great Plains and Midwest into disaster areas, wrecking crops and driving food prices dangerously upwards, to unnatural climate fluctuation. Belief in climate change is now at an all-time U.S. high, and while explaining the causes of any large weather pattern is always difficult, enough is known about climate to make some educated guesses.

[University of California Climatologist Chris] Funk's specialty is the dynamics of sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific Ocean. Over the last century, and in particular the last two decades, these rose by an average of 1.25 degrees Fahrenheit. Ocean temperature trends can be tricky to interpret, but there's little scientific disagreement about Indian Ocean warming: It's almost certainly man-made, a result of greenhouse gases trapping heat in Earth's atmosphere.

The consequences are significant. Heated air holds extra water, supercharging monsoon systems and producing events like 2010′s Pakistan floods. Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas itself, trapping heat and creating a feedback loop of local warming.

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