Ah, Minnesota. Land of 10,000 Lakes — and 10,000 ways to say “damn, it’s cold outside!” But not this year.
My home state is experiencing the warmest start to November on record. People are walking around in shorts, still mowing their lawns. Boats are in the water. An eight-month boating season — in Minnesota?
The Twin Cities will see the first official frost of autumn Saturday morning, Nov. 19. That means a 221-day frost-free growing season in 2016. Perfectly average, for the northern suburbs of Dallas. Amazing, and on some level, a bit unnerving.
One snapshot in time doesn’t prove anything, but string these snapshots together into a longer-running movie and you start to see the outline of something larger in play.
Imagine your favorite college football team running out onto the field, but all the players have a case of the flu. They suited up, but now they’re slow, groggy and sluggish, running the wrong routes, more prone to confusion and injury. Our atmosphere and oceans have a mild case of the flu — and symptoms are now showing up in the weather.
I interviewed 11 of America’s premiere broadcast TV meteorologists, to hear their thoughts and stories of how a rapidly changing climate is affecting local weather patterns:
Chief meteorologist Tom Skilling at WGN-TV in Chicago: “A surge in the incidence of flooding as a result of more extreme precipitation events across the Chicago area in recent decades has been among the most noteworthy developments on the climate front.”
Meteorologist Paul Gross at WDIV-TV in Detroit: “A warmer world has translated into more snow for the metropolitan Detroit area. It shocks people when I tell them that five of our top 10 all-time snowiest winters have occurred since 2004.”
Former president of the American Meteorological Society, Bob Ryan, in Washington, D.C.: “Cities are hotter in summer, storms are stronger, dry spells are longer, nights are warmer . . .”
Chief meteorologist Monica Woods at KXTV in Sacramento, Calif: “The infrastructure for water storage and delivery developed in the early 1900s may not meet the needs of a warmer and more heavily populated state. If climate models are any indication, Californians will see more droughts like this.”
Recently retired KING-TV chief meteorologist Jeff Renner in Seattle: “Mountains that routinely set records (world-records!) for annual snowfall were largely barren of snow by early summer, and glaciers on the massive volcanoes are shrinking. Tinder dry vegetation ignited by lightning strikes or human carelessness have resulted in record wildfire seasons.”
Chief meteorologist Greg Fishel at WRAL in Raleigh, N.C.: “With sea levels continuing to rise, one can only wonder what the future will hold for our tourism industry, which depends so heavily on vacationers frequenting our beaches.”
Chief meteorologist John Morales at NBC 6 in Miami: “Eventually, hundreds of thousands of people who thought their families could remain comfortably anchored in their Magic City (Miami) homes will have to consider a Plan B, especially for their children and grandchildren, due to sea level rise caused by global warming.”
Chief meteorologist Mike Nelson at Denver’s KMGH-TV: “With a gradual warming of the planet our regional climate is likely to become drier on average over the next 100 years. The result will be more wildfires, lower water levels in our reservoirs and more frequent droughts.”
Chief meteorologist Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz at NBC 10 in Philadelphia: “Warmest year. Warmest spring. Hottest summer. Most days of 90+. Hottest June. Hottest July. Wettest year. Wettest summer. Wettest single day. Wettest March. Wettest June. Wettest July. Wettest August. Snowiest winter. Snowiest month. Snowiest December. Snowiest February. Second and third biggest snowstorms. Lowest barometric pressure (Sandy). Official records in Philadelphia go back to 1871. That’s 145 years. Yet all those above records happened in SIX!”
I’m seeing the same fingerprints of climate volatility and weather disruption. For the first time on record Minnesota experienced two separate “mega-rains” this year, defined as 6 inches or more of rain falling on 1,000 square miles. My state has witnessed 15 such major flood events since 1866; 7 of them struck since 2000.
Nationwide, Hurricane Matthew’s inundation of North Carolina was America’s sixth thousand-year flood since October 2015.
I share more stories, anecdotes and trends from meteorologists around the USA in “Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment,” a book I co-authored with the Rev. Mitch Hescox, who heads up the Evangelical Environmental Network. He’s a former Methodist minister, the son of a coal miner.
Together we track the risks of fossil fuel pollution on our short-term health and longer-term climate. The book tries to frame the threat and opportunity of climate change in ways that resonate with entrepreneurs, conservatives and evangelicals, emphasizing personal responsibility, stewardship and Creation Care.
We acknowledge a place for faith and science, encouraging solutions that result in true energy freedom, strategies that add more clean-energy jobs — and a secure, sustainable path forward for America’s economy. People of faith should pay attention and not wave this off as a conspiracy or hoax. Because this will impact your kids, and their kids. We are all accountable.
The symptoms of an overheating planet are showing up on the nightly weather report with greater regularity; symptoms that will prove harder to dismiss and deny over time.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” mused Yogi Berra. True enough. America is a nation of armchair meteorologists. If you keep an open mind and pay attention you’ll see the symptoms of a rapidly changing climate in your home town weather, too.
Republican meteorologist and serial entrepreneur Paul Douglas writes a daily weather and climate column at Star Tribune. He is founder of AerisWeather and co-author of “Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide to Climate Change and a Healthy Environment”