Crazy idealists such as myself, who want to preserve our traditional climate, wonder why reporters can’t even ask about what might be different about the latest flooding in the Midwest.
Before you jump down my throat, of course I know that "a climatology" is tracked over a thirty-year span, so we cannot link a single storm or a single season to global warming. A single data point, no matter how dramatic, isn’t all that meaningful: it’s the trend that matters.
But as Joe Romm at Gristmill points out (here) scientists already have found a trend towards extreme precipitation in the U.S. (Contemporary Changes of the Hydrological Cycle over the Contiguous United States; Trends).
The authors of this 2004 study write:
These pictures and table indicate that, while mean precipitation increase was barely visible during the past century (and was statistically insignificant in the cold season), heavy and very heavy precipitation increased markedly as did the proportion of their totals attributed to these events.
Further, they found that the greatest areas of summer precipitation increase were in the Midwest and the Upper Midwest — precisely the areas feeding floodwaters into the Mississippi, the Cedar, and the Iowa rivers.
This trend towards extreme precipitation was also noted in the Nobel Prize-winning Climate Change 2007 report of the IPCC: "Similarly, for the continguous USA, Kunkel et al. (2003) and Groisman et al. (2004) confirmed earlier results and found statistically significant increases in heavy (upper 5%) and very heavy (upper 1%) precipitation of 14% and 20%, respectively." [pp302]
This trend towards heavy or extreme precipitiation is again echoed in the Climate Extremes Index, maintained by NOAA, the relevant example of which I will reproduce below.
Yet somehow even good reporters, such as PJ Huffstutter of the Los Angeles Times, can spend an entire day or more with a team of hydrologists in the Midwest (here), studying this record-breaking flood that has left most of Cedar Rapids underwater…and not bring up the possibility of a connection to climate change. Mr. Huffstutter has time to describe all sorts of arcane details about collecting flood data, but not to ask about the cause.
C’mon, PJ. Throw us a bone. Please ask these experts what they think about a link to global warming. If they doubt it, fine. But to pretend it doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter? You’re better than that.