|Recent flooding on the Salinas River near Chualar, California|
Photo: David McNew via AFP/Getty/NPR
The photo above is from one of many stories that we will continue to find on NPR and elsewhere, about the series of storms that are pummeling California. The damage is made more severe by the fact that the storms followed a period of drought and fire and the fact that they are arriving in such rapid succession that soil has no time to dry. Many lessons about physical geography are playing out in very real terms.
Among those lessons are the importance of the jet stream -- that very fast, sinusoidal wind current in the upper atmosphere that contributes so much variability to weather patterns in the midlatitudes, even in "normal" times. In a recent conversation my favorite environmental journalist Steve Curwood, climate scientist Jennifer Francis explains the importance of the jet stream in general and the ways it is now driving extreme weather in particular.
Climate-change deniers have often cited the complexity of the problem as an excuse for their disbelief -- or more precisely for the disbelief they tried to cultivate among those who would not read the original literature. As evidence has grown that the climate is not only growing warmer but also growing more variable, skeptics (including professional doubt-sowers) have pretended that scientists were changing the narrative to fit changing circumstances.
These weak arguments ignored the changing circumstances themselves and the fact that increased variability was mentioned in some of the earliest literature on the problem. I discuss this in a bit more detail in my 2017 post Early Warning and in my 2016 Your Cheatin' Climate. My 2012 post Frosty Denial describes the basic process of global warming itself -- I have never seen an argument that addresses these basic processes.
The climate-denial business has indeed been a business, as Leonardo DiCaprio explains so well in Before the Flood. In fact, the petroleum industry has understood the science so well -- despite their support for Congress Critters who continue to deny the facts -- that ExxonMobil internal documents predicted change better than most published papers.