22 september 2012

5 UNL scientists seek steps on climate change

By Nancy Gaarder, Omaha World-Herald, September 22, 2012

Five University of Nebraska-Lincoln climate scientists released a joint statement Friday calling for action on climate change.

Nebraska is in the midst of its warmest and second driest year on record, and as a result has seen a destructive summer of drought, fire and agricultural losses.

But it's not this year's debilitating weather that prompted the statement, the scientists say.

Rather, it's the ongoing public confusion over the degree of scientific certainty surrounding climate change.

“Climate change is real, and human activities have a profound effect on the way in which it is occurring,” according to the statement, signed by Clinton M. Rowe, Robert J. Oglesby, Mark R. Anderson, Martha Shulski and Adam L. Houston, all of whom are in earth and atmospheric sciences or with the School of Natural Resources.

Rowe and Oglesby are professors, Anderson and Houston are associate professors and Shulski is an assistant professor and director of the High Plains Regional Climate Center.

Rowe said the statement was released on the heels of an August position paper issued by the American Meteorological Society and a February statement by the American Geophysical Union.

“The scientific community is behind this. It's not some random couple of people thinking about climate change,” Rowe said.

Nebraska will warm by 4 to 10 degrees in the coming decades, the statement indicates.

Precipitation impacts are less certain. Drier weather is expected to the west and wetter weather to the east.

Drought interspersed by extreme flooding can be expected. And of greatest concern is dramatic decreases in snowpack forecast for the Rockies and the consequences that would bring to the Platte River system and its reservoirs.

“The time for debate is over. The time for action is here,” the statement concludes.

While climate change is politically polarizing, those interviewed said they don't see their statement as a political act.

“I see this as a scientific statement,” said Shulski, who teaches a class at UNL on climate change. “My job as a scientist is to see what the data show. So I view this as a chance to let the community know what I see as a scientist.”

Shulski and the other climate scientists said they've been asked frequently if this year's extreme weather is being caused by climate change. Making that tight of a connection isn't possible, they said.

“This year does add urgency,” she said.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1102, nancy.gaarder@owh.com

Statement from UNL faculty

We, the undersigned, are all faculty in climate, or climate-related disciplines, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Based on our informed scientific judgment, we most strongly support the policy statements on climate change of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, the two most prominent U.S. scientific societies whose members are studying the climate system.

Climate change is real, and human activities have a profound effect on the way in which it is occurring. Over the coming decades it will get warmer in Nebraska, by 4-10°F. Changes in mean rainfall are less clear, as all models predict wetter to our east and drier to our west; the ‘no-change' line cuts somewhere through Nebraska.

Of most concern, snowpack in the central Rockies is forecast to decrease dramatically with strong implications for the Platte River (will Lake McConaughy become a ditch in mid-summer?). In addition to a trend towards more drought, we can expect this trend to be interspersed with more extreme flooding events due to enhanced climate variability. The time for debate is over. The time for action is here.

» Clinton M. Rowe, Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
» Mark R. Anderson, Associate Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
» Adam L. Houston, Associate Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
» Robert J. Oglesby, Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences and School of Natural Resources
» Martha Shulski, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources

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