It was 90 degrees today in Oregon's generally temperate northern Willamette Valley. Last month we reached 100 degrees, breaking records for this time of year.
I had to do some field mowing today. It was hotter than I wanted it to be. Who do I blame?
Global warming! And the climate change deniers who love to say, "Sure, we're getting more hurricanes (or tornados, floods, heat waves, melting sea ice, etc.) but there's always been natural variations in the weather."
Newsweek's Sharon Begley demolishes that argument in her persuasive piece, "Global Warming is a Cause of This Year's Extreme Weather."
It's heartwarming (bad choice of words, given the sweat on my brow) to have Begley tell it like it is.
It's almost a point of pride with climatologists. Whenever someplace is hit with a heat wave, drought, killer storm or other extreme weather, scientists trip over themselves to absolve global warming. No particular weather event, goes the mantra, can be blamed on something so general.
Extreme weather occurred before humans began loading up the atmosphere with heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. So this storm or that heat wave could be the result of the same natural forces that prevailed 100 years ago—random movements of air masses, unlucky confluences of high- and low-pressure systems—rather than global warming.
This pretense has worn thin. The frequency of downpours and heat waves, as well as the power of hurricanes, has increased so dramatically that "100-year storms" are striking some areas once every 15 years, and other once rare events keep returning like a bad penny.
And here's something that speaks to my overheated psyche:
Global warming has left its clearest fingerprint on heat waves. Since the record scorcher of 1998, the average annual temperatures in the United States in six of the past 10 years have been among the hottest 10 percent on record. Climatologists predict that days so hot they now arrive only once every 20 years will, by midcentury, hit the continental United States once every three years.
Fortunately, both Obama and McCain have the smarts to recognize that global climate change is for real. Unfortunately, we and the planet have had to put up with almost eight years of Bush, the anti-reality president, who's had his head in the scientific sand on this and many other issues.