Brace yourselves for more floods

To the editor:

The torrential rains that caused extensive flooding in Houghton County on Father’s Day Weekend will cost Michigan up to one billion dollars, according to an editorial that was printed in the Marquette Mining Journal on June 19. This event should inspire all of us to support action to reverse human-caused climate change.

I’m a meteorologist with two degrees in atmospheric science. The great majority of the most qualified scientists in my field of study believe human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for a dangerous climate change and that urgent action to reduce these emissions is necessary to avoid the worst impacts. In addition to a well documented, increasing rise in global average temperature, the greenhouse gas warming will result in more evaporation and thus an increase in the concentration of atmospheric water vapor as well as changes in atmospheric circulation patterns that favor slower-moving, deeper low pressure systems. The result will be a higher probability of more extreme heavy rains. In fact, the National Climate Assessment reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences reports the frequency of heavy downpours is rising. In much of the U.S. since 1991, the frequency of heavy downpours increased by more than 30 percent relative to the 1901-1960 average. The Houghton County downpour and flooding event suggest Upper Michigan will not be immune to these more likely weather disasters.

The probability of droughts will also increase because the overall warming results in more evaporation and drier soils. Enhanced subsidence (sinking air) that results in drying around the deeper low pressure systems and areas of heavy rain will also enhance the probability of droughts in the areas that miss the heavy precipitation. Persistent severe drought and recent wildfires plaguing much of the southwestern U.S. are consistent with this expectation.

If no action is taken, the cost to our domestic agriculture and economy built around a stable climate will become considerable.

Fortunately, a bipartisan group known as the Climate Solutions Caucus has formed in the U.S. House of Representatives in an effort to find market-friendly and economically-viable ways to slow greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Our congressman, Jack Bergman, is a member. I encourage your readers to urge him to become more active and support the Carbon Fee & Dividend proposal put forth by the Citizens Climate Lobby group that would encourage all Americans to switch to clean, renewable energy sources.