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Climatologist: Flooding the Result of Climate Change

May 25, 2011

PHOENIX - Arizona had unusual hailstorms and tornadoes in October and a rare winter-like storm last week - but it's been nothing like the record-breaking flooding and tornadoes in the South and Midwest. Now, some climatologists see the hand of climate change directly in these extreme weather events.

Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says the environment in which all these storms are occurring is simply different than it was 30 years ago.

"We look at the statistics we find that the very heavy rains are increasing at a substantial rate. In general, it has become wetter in the United States, especially east of the Rockies."

The time is past when all these storms could be attributed just to natural cycles, Trenberth says.

"You can't simply blame this all on natural variability. Natural variability is certainly playing a role, but equally, climate change that us humans have something to do with is also playing a role."

He hopes the devastation along the Mississippi River as well as the death and destruction from an unusually high number of tornadoes will prompt lawmakers to take action - but he's skeptical.

"Ironically, many of the states that have been most affected by the flooding and the tornadoes have representatives in the Congress who have voted against legislation relating to climate change, such as the legislation affecting the EPA and their ability to regulate greenhouse gases."

Trenberth says the increase in the earth's temperature has led to an even bigger increase in the amount of water vapor over the oceans, which contributes to massive storms.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ