Climate Change Revisited

How do you respond when the forecasted high temperature in your state is supposed to set a new high temperature record for your state? What if a daytime high temperature of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit occurs more often and much sooner than it used to?

How do you respond when government officials in your metropolitan area are calling for voluntary water rationing in hope that mandatory rationing won’t be needed? What if such water rationing has not happened in your metropolitan area since the Dust Bowl era?

At what point do you say that the weather pattern is not an anomaly, but rather that the climate in your part of the world is changing?

Instead of saying that the climate is changing, should you instead say that the climate is changing again?

The current drought in the central USA is going to affect all U.S. residents sooner or later, as the price of food rises. Should the USA’s political leaders treat the drought as something that occurs only once in a blue moon? Should political leaders instead treat the drought as a sign of things to come?

Granted, there will be people who insist that such high temperatures and drought are the result of mankind’s activities. However, I caution any person who makes such a claim to look at the broad history of climates in North America.

The following is an excerpt from “Paleoenvironmental Change”, an article featured on the website Canyons, Cultures and Environmental Change: An Introduction to the Land Use History of the Colorado Plateau.

Historical records from 900 to 1300 A.D. in Europe indicate that this was a time of changes in atmospheric circulation known as the Medieval Warm Period. In high-latitude regions this was largely beneficial: grapes were grown in England and the Norse founded colonies first in Iceland and then in southern Greenland. But in arid regions a warmer climate, especially when accompanied by drought, can cause significant difficulties for farmers. A fifty-year drought occurred between 1130 and 1180 A.D. It was during this period that soil and water conservation features such as grid borders, terraces and check dams began to be built in the Four Corners area.

The prolonged droughts of the subsequent period must have created great stress for the Anasazi. The so-called Great Drought, a sharp decline in precipitation from 1276 to 1299 A.D., had to have been particularly devastating. The elevational zone for upland dry farming began to shrink rapidly, and may have disappeared altogether by 1300 A.D.

The droughts in North America that took place between 1130 and 1180 CE and between 1276 to 1299 CE took place before the Industrial Revolution and when North America had a sparse human population. Evidentially, droughts in North America can occur without mankind causing them.  The drought that preceded the Dust Bowl took place during a time of increasing industrial activity, but according to a report published by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, that particular drought was not as bad as those that took place during the 1800s. That report states the following:

The Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s was one of the worst environmental disasters of the Twentieth Century anywhere in the world. Three million people left their farms on the Great Plains during the drought and half a million migrated to other states, almost all to the West. But the Dust Bowl drought was not meteorologically extreme by the standards of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Indeed the 1856-65 drought may have involved a more severe drop in precipitation.

Knowing that climates in North America have not remained steady, and knowing that severe droughts have struck North America periodically, would it not make sense to anticipate climate change even if mankind is not the cause of it?

 

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