03 Feb Climate science experts predict intensified drought in Texas
Posted February 1, 2012 in The Houston Chronicle See Post
The extreme drought gripping Texas and the rest of the Southwest is likely to intensify, according to a panel of climate experts from Columbia University.
Richard Seager, an expert on droughts in North America, told a Washington audience that the Texas drought of the past decade has been the continent’s most serious.
The luckiest three percent of the state’s land is rated as having a “severe drought,” said Lisa Goddard, an expert on climate prediction. Another 88% of the state is considered “exceptional.”
The drought can be attributed to the La Nina phenomenon, a cooling pattern in the Pacific Ocean, in combination with a warming pattern in the Atlantic Ocean, panelists marking the second annual Climate Science Day explained.
However, the drought is also part of a “host of problems out there that we’re creating for ourselves,” Seager said, referring to global warming. He added that we can expect weather extremes, especially the drought, to intensify, and for the Southwestern states to become more arid with time.
The panelists explained that it is hard to determine if global warming is the precise reason for the drought. At this point, researchers are studying the warm Atlantic waters to figure out how much of the nation’s extreme weather can be contributed to global warming and how much is from the natural warming pattern.
Seager made a comparison to Barry Bonds’ record breaking season.
You wouldn’t be able to pick out one at-bat and determine if he hit a home run precisely because of steroids, he said; it’s easier, however, to look at his entire season and determine, yes, steroids were a factor.
Seager added that, while the extreme weather cannot be stopped, the level of intensity can certainly be minimized by reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.
In the long run, Goddard said, it is important to promote research so scientists can make important, accurate predictions. Research, she said, will help scientists reach the point where they can make fuller, more reliable estimates of risk or opportunity, which will put leaders in better positions to make decisions for the future.