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LIZ ROLL/FEMA.ORG

What Superstorm Sandy left behind.

San Antonio Meteorologists talk climate change

 

STEVE BROWNE, KSAT

steve browne

Do you believe the planet's undergoing significant climate change?
Do I believe it's undergoing climate change? Yea. Do I believe it's significant? I'm not so sure about that, but it's definitely changing.

What's the human role?
I think the science is pretty much convergent on the same idea: That climate change is being caused by human beings, although I can find some of my colleagues that would disagree with that. There's no denying the fact that we have changed the chemistry of the entire planet, the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels have gone up significantly from 280 parts per million to almost 400 parts per million. And they just keep going up. When you change the chemistry of the entire planet, it changes the balance of the planet. There's no way you can deny that's happening. The only question I raise when you ask me is how significant is it: I believe it's fairly significant. It's been about a degree and a half Fahrenheit since the industrial revolution. That doesn't sound like a whole lot, but it does have a significant impact on how much water vapor the atmosphere can handle. For every degree Fahrenheit the temperature goes up, the atmosphere can absorb another 5 percent water. So we're up into about 7 and a half percent more water in the atmosphere, which means your flood events are going to be a lot more intense. And on the other side of it, if it's not raining, the drought evens are going to be more intense because you can evaporate water out of the ground that much faster.

Why is there so much controversy surrounding this topic? Is it fair to drag meteorologists into it?
I've been studying this since the mid 1980s. Everything climatologists told me was going to happen has pretty much happened. They said things like first freeze dates would be later, last freeze dates would be earlier, the growing season would expand in the north. They said droughts would be more severe and floods would be more severe. Has that happened? Yea. They also said snow storms would be more severe. And every time it snows, people say, “Ah, so what about global warming?” It's just because the atmosphere can hold more water. They also said most of the world's glaciers would continue to shrink, and they have. They said the polar ice cap would start to deteriorate, and it has. That sea levels would rise; they have. Almost everything they said has happened, it's' just a very slow process.
I think it became political after Al Gore released his movie, mainly because he's such a polarizing figure. He's a left wring liberal, as some would say, so he's very polarizing. When he put out that movie, it was just a bunch of people jumping on the bandwagon saying he's full of crap. And I just don't think that's fair. I don't think it should be political. I tend to be conservative myself, but I'm not an ultra right wing.
There's Rush Limbaugh and people who just automatically say it's all malarkey, that it's a bunch of crap. They're not looking at what's happening. They're not seeing what's happening. Its' right in front of all of our faces. It's just a slow process. A degree and a half (temperature rise), the consequences are undeniable. When you increase carbon dioxide, you change the chemistry of the atmosphere. This has never happened in the history of the planet, one species changing the chemistry of the entire planet. That's pretty profound, in my opinion.

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