1 August 2011

Baked Sooners

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Oklahoma is the world leader in weather research and has the world’s best network of weather stations, called the Oklahoma Mesonet. Take a look at some of the data it has recorded this summer.

The number of days with temps. above 100 is approaching the numbers seen during the awful heat wave of 1980. I was in Oklahoma City that summer and remember everyone running outside of the TV station to see a cloud in the sky. There had been none for three weeks. My air conditioner went out in my car, so I would wait until the temp. dropped to 100 to leave the TV station in NW Oklahoma City. To survive, I took a towel and soaked it cold water, and put it over my head.

It was totally dry before I reached Norman 27 miles away.

Austin Texas had its hottest July ever measured and the records go back 157 years there. The heat was not just confined to Texas and Oklahoma though. Washington, DC also had its hottest July ever recorded and Capital Climate has even more on the heat.

From the U.S. Global Change Research program. Click for the full report.

It’s worth mentioning that you cannot blame any one weather event on climate change, but here is something to think about. Summers like this in the past have happened about every 30-40 years. The last one was 31 years ago in 1980, and before that in the 1950’s and then the torrid dust bowl of 1936. My Grandmother remembered putting wet sheets over the windows in the summer of 36. They would be dripping with mud in an hour.

Down-scaled data from climate models indicate that this kind of summer will happen every few years in Oklahoma by the late 2060’s. A ten-year old boy in Oklahoma who takes over his father’s farm will be dealing with this at retirement age. He may be farming but, not likely growing wheat in Oklahoma.

Farmers can survive a summer like this once every 25-30 years. They cannot survive a summer like this ( and worse) every 4 or 5 years. There is little doubt that slowly but certainly, the agriculture crops of Oklahoma will change, and not for the better.  A 3 degree C warming of the planet does not sound like much, but when you look at this way it seems much different. The son of that ten your old boy in Oklahoma, who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, will deal with this kind of summer almost every year by the time he is 65.

How has Oklahoma responded to this? They overwhelmingly vote for a U.S. Senator who tells them that all those scientists at the University of Oklahoma and across the rest of the world are pulling a great hoax on them. I guess you can’t blame them for wanting to believe a lie, when the scientific truth is so very unpleasant.