Who can forget a year ago, when temperatures in the Southwest plunged well below freezing, bursting water pipes and devastating local vegetation (NOAA)?
It’s nice that the monsoon rains have come again to Arizona and the Southwest, although the monsoon season never lasts forever. Meanwhile, the bigger weather story is the American heat wave of 2011 that is making life miserable in the Midwest and further east.
Even before this weekend’s record heat in Arizona, climate and weather extremes have been in the news a lot. Unusually severe drought in the Southwest, stretching through Texas, started it off. The resulting parched landscapes contributed to record wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico. Elsewhere, tornados compelled our attention, killing hundreds and leaving swaths of destruction.
The impact of tropical Pacific ocean temperatures on the hydroclimate of the Southwest is profound: on timescales of 2-8 years, El Niño and La Niña events influence the amount of winter precipitation we receive.
I’ve been hearing about a couple of prickly mountain lions spotted in Sabino Canyon near Tucson, more frequent observations of birds with talons in cities, and increased javelina sightings near dwellings. All are telltale signs of mounting drought impacts on the ecosystem. Not since November, 2007, have drought conditions been as severe as they are currently in parts of Arizona.
With the Fukushima nuclear accident still fresh on people’s minds, and the Obama Administration set to vamp up the nuclear power option, now is a good time to reevaluate the viability of nuclear energy, particularly in relation to climate change.
A blog post circulating around last week caught my attention. It suggested, based on new census data for Texas, that the decline in rural population in arid, central Texas over the last decade was due to the impact of persistent drought on agriculture.
February’s cold snap in Tucson left many sad-looking prickly-pear cacti and thousands of burst pipes across the city. The anomalous cold temperatures we experienced in Tucson extended across the Southwest, with dire consequences. Frozen pipelines cut off the natural gas supply to 19,000 Arizona customers and 32,000 New Mexico customers, causing NM Gov.
I was up in Phoenix last night to discuss climate change with a crowd of interested people up at the Arizona Historical Society Museum. It’s a nice place for a talk and discussion, and at the end I had several requests to post a copy of my talk.