Monday, March 30, 2009

Red River Blues

I suspect that Obama needs to get sharper speech writers who actually know a little about the climate and science. This bit was bone headed at the least. The most minimal local knowledge would have warned one off about assigning any causation to ongoing natural behavior.

It appears so far that none of this translates into an increased threat for the Mississippi basin this year although all indicators do point to a rough flood season for parts of it. There is a larger than usual snow pack and the melt rate and additional precipitation are factors yet to be determined, but all this falls into normal operating parameters. So far it is business as usual.

In the meantime, the Red River will be stress testing the floodway that bypasses Winnipeg this year and all flood defenses will also be tested. It appears that all the records will be challenged.

The main lesson here though, is that North Dakota needs to build flood defenses for its two major cities or simply move the cities well away from the flood plains. In Winnipeg, that ultimately meant building a huge bypass floodway to take the excess around the city and a lot else besides. It also meant building ring dikes around a number of towns.

It is all rather expensive, but those defenses will be there doing their job for centuries as needed and decadal rebuilding of cities can be avoided.

Shocker: Despite Obama’s Comments, North Dakota Flood Not Caused By Global Warming

Yesterday Obama, in skirting a question about what his cap-and-trade policy would do to certain key industries in the state of North Dakota (bankruptcy?), claimed that the flooding in the Red River Valley right now is being caused by global warming.

Today comes news that the flooding in North Dakota (which seems to happen every decade or so) is not, in fact, being caused by global warming. From the Heartland Institute in response to this same sort of “It’s the global warming!” nonsense which was being propagated by the government during the 1997 floods:

The logic may be compelling, but the premise is false, notes climatologist Patrick Michaels. He explains that in extremely high altitudes (say poleward of 70 degrees), the cold air is so dry that it’s impossible to get significant snowfall. That’s why the South Pole averages less than two feet of snow each year, he points out. But moving into the warmer middle latitudes, Michaels observers, “moisture is no longer the limiting factor—temperature is.

Turning to Grand Forks, North Dakota, Michaels notes that since 1949, winter (December through March) temperatures have shown a statistically significant increase, from 8.5 degrees F to 13.5 degrees F. If one were to share Claussen’s view of the world, the warmer air should have produced increased amounts of snowfall. However, in plotting the relationship between snowfall and temperature in Grand Forks between 1949 and 1995, the correlation turns about to be negative and statistically significant. “In this region,” Michaels shows, �warmer winters have less snow than cold winters.�

Confirming Michaels’ observations, the winter of 1996-97 was extremely cold in the Grand Forks region with extraordinarily high amounts of snowfall.

The winter of 2008 - 2009 was also an extremely cold winter with extraordinary amounts of snow for most of North Dakota. Perhaps especially Fargo, if not Grand Forks as well.

But here’s another unique factor most people forget when talking about this specific region: The Red River, which flows through both Grand Forks and Fargo, actually flows south to north. It empties into Lake Winnipeg in Canada. This presents additional complications in that the southern parts of the Red River basin tend to melt more quickly than the northern parts. This sends torrents of water flowing north to areas that are still frozen. Ice dams and flooding ensue.

It’s not global warming. It’s just a once-in-a-decade-or-so bad winter coupled with the unusual geography of the area.

Not that politicians like Barack Obama aren’t above trying to capitalize on disaster and global warming hysteria for the sake of furthering their political agendas.

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