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April 18th, 2012 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: A Welcome Climate Change

Is there a local upside to climate change?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

The nice weather got me thinking: Is there a local upside to climate change? If the weather changes everywhere, some places are bound to improve—why not us? I’m willing to sacrifice a few polar bears if we wind up with L.A.’s warm, dry climate. 

—Tom in San Portlando


Hoping for better weather through climate change is like hoping to lose weight by getting cancer: Even if it works out in the short term, it’s probably not worth it.

Still, let’s put aside for a moment the mass extinctions, famines and ever-more-frequent Hurricane Katrina-level weather disturbances that will doom our civilization and play hell with your iPhone reception. Will we at least have nice weather for the End Times?

Sadly, the answer appears to be “not even.” For starters, projections show Portland getting wetter, not drier: Overall precipitation is expected to be up 2 percent over a 1980s baseline by 2040.

That would be hard to notice were it not for the fact that rain will be arranged differently: even wetter winters and drier summers. Those wet winters will also include more extreme high-precipitation events—what dirt-munching yokels like you and me call “floods.”

Drier summers sound nice, though, right? Unfortunately, one effect of our expected 3.2-degree-by-2040 temperature bump will be a major reduction in the snowpack whose melting provides our water supply. Thus, drought will be the first of our biblical plagues, though I’m sure locusts, frogs and rivers of blood will be close behind.

If it’s any consolation, most of the rest of the world is in the same boat: There are very few places on the globe that would benefit from more extreme, energetic weather. Outside of maybe one Russian guy who paid peanuts in 1998 for a soon-to-be-productive orange grove in Siberia, we’re all equally screwed.

 
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