Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Tom Henry

New climate data unlikely to serve as wake-up call

Food for thought as you shovel your driveway and strap on your ice skates: 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest year on record globally.

That's according to scientists employed by the federal government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has records dating to 1880.

Don't expect that to ignite a new flame under politicians trying to get tighter controls on carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases that scientists have linked to climate change, even though U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D., Mass.), ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, calls it "another warning siren that should serve as a wake-up call to Congress to take action to reduce dangerous carbon pollution and create clean-energy jobs that reduce the impacts of climate change."

It's just more food for thought, another little nugget of information that lobbyists on both sides of the issue will accept or ignore.

Naysayers look at the past 130 years of climate data and say it's anecdotal -- a blip on the radar screen. But so are the past 250,000 years if scientists have accurately estimated the Earth's age at about 4.5 billion years.

So what's really a good sample of time to examine? Good question.

For what it's worth, scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., one of the nation's pre-eminent climate facilities, have records showing 2010 was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average.

For the contiguous United States alone, 2010 was the 14th consecutive year with an annual temperature above its long-term average.

But it also was only the Lower 48's 23rd warmest year on record. Of course, the U.S.-only stats mean nothing if Greenland and Antarctica melt, sea levels rise, disease-carrying mosquitoes multiply, flooding in low-lying parts of central Asia creates a mass exodus, water shortages in the Middle East and Africa cause even more political instability, and overseas agricultural markets that support the U.S. economy crash. But for some people there's no need to look beyond our borders on climate or any other issue.

The Earth has 6.9 billion people, more than twice it had in 1966. As it grows, so does the need for more energy and a wiser use of what's already being produced both here and abroad.

According to the Global Historical Climatology Network, 2010 also was the wettest year for global precipitation.

Yep, warm and wet.

The not-so dead zone?: Purdue University put out an intriguing release last week, claiming it has generated a peer-reviewed study that shows Lake Erie's infamous dead zone -- a large, shifting pocket of low-oxygen water that is part natural and part the result of oxygen-consuming algae caused by human activity -- isn't equally lethal from one fish species to another.

The findings, published in the Journal of Freshwater Biology, conclude that while the dead zone is no-man's land for all fish, yellow perch fared slightly better from 1987 to 2005 than round gobies and rainbow smelt.

New lawyer, same carp: Michigan's new attorney general, Republican Bill Schuette, let the world know Thursday that he will be carrying on where his predecessor, Mike Cox, left off in the fight against Asian carp. Scratch that. He's carrying on the fight in the legal arena (and the court of public opinion) against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Chicago-area politicians who refuse to close the locks that lie between carp-infested waterways and Lake Michigan.

The effort, which includes Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, was hit with a staggering blow when U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., refused on Dec. 2 to grant an intermediate request to close the locks. But it wasn't technically a knockout punch. Now it's onward with the merits of the actual lawsuit, filed on July 19. The lawsuit is similar to one the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear last year when the state of Illinois was identified as a primary defendant. The high court didn't rule on the merits.

Contact Tom Henry at: or 419-724-6079.

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