The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 14, 2013

Meteorologist Paul Douglas talks climate change at Senior Expo


For more recent evidence, he said, look at the scale of Hurricane Sandy. That was a storm three times the size of Hurricane Katrina and drove 776,000 people from their homes on the East Coast.

“And that was only a Category 1 storm,” he said. “It was big, but what if it had been a Category 3 or Category 4 storm?”

Douglas says a bubble of high-pressure air above Greenland had been just sitting there waiting to cause trouble. Why? Increasing water temperatures caused by the melting of the polar caps produced warmer than average air. Douglas says that air, while it didn't cause the hurricane, probably made Sandy a lot worse than it would have been.

“A warmer atmosphere probably sounds pretty good to a Minnesotan,” he said. “But, when you warm up the atmosphere, you increase the amount of water vapor.”

And that causes Sandy-level trouble.

The numberof 3-inch downpours has doubled, he said, and just since 2004, there have been four so-called 1,000-year floods in Minnesota – three of which occurred in southern Minnesota.

On top of that, he said, 97 percent of the peer-reviewed and published climate change research suggests humans are contributing to the warming of the planet.

“I tell people, don't look at your thermometer. Look out at your back yard and see the things that are there now that weren't there 20 years ago,” he said.

Climate change is an opportunity to reinvent our country, he said. He called renewed focus on natural gas energy and fracking a “definite step in the right direction” because it burns half as much carbon as coal.

“But we need to put more focus on renewables,” he said. “We have the ability. What we don't have is the political will. … Kicking the can down the road and saying, 'Well our grandkids will figure it out' isn't the right answer.”

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