Friday, March 06, 2009

Climate change is changing rain/snow mix in winter floods

Thought I'd try a local reference as part of the whole Roger Pielke Jr. kerfluffle, wherein Roger expresses outrage at the idea that present climate disasters are partially traced to climate change. He apparently doesn't dispute that climate change will make future disasters worse, so I fail to detect the bigness of the deal.

Something I put up at my work blog is relevant to climate disasters and flooding. Our local area winter storms and resulting flooding are a mix of rain at low elevations and snow at high elevations. California has definitely warmed, so this has likely increased the rain:snow ratio and made flooding worse, and will do so even more in the future.

And it's probably not just us that have this problem - plenty of other temperate areas could face fall and spring storms that would have been partially or completely snow instead of rain under natural conditions but will get rain-caused flooding instead because of warming. Not the most important climate impact by far, but directly relevant to Roger's field.

I expect his response would be to say you can't point to existing data on economic damages and separate out a climate signal from the noise of every other factor. So what? That doesn't mean the damage hasn't happened. It's a logical implication, and what's lacking is only the detailed information that lets us tease out the various factors.

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