Posted by: pyeager | October 28, 2009

California Dust Storms–Global Warming?

The storm that I mentioned yesterday (Massive Winter-Like Storm) has produced quite a bit of wind in California during the past couple of days, resulting in reports of blowing dust (Blowing Dust Prompts Health Warnings and Windy Storms Whips Up Dust Out West…). The question that always follows a dust storm is whether it’s tied to global warming.

Human Processes

California is an area where human processes, such as diverting water from natural paths and converting large areas into farms, leads to the possibility of more dust. Dry lake beds due to irrigation and large swaths of cultivated ground are obviously not a reflection of global warming.

Current Drought

California is also in a multi-year period with less rainfall than normal, and whether the drought is attributable to global warming is a more debatable point. Since this is a blog, not a news story, I feel that I can share my opinion.

Normal Variable of Weather

The current drought and associated dust storms are not enough proof to me that global warming is affecting the weather. California is a naturally dry location, and extended periods of drought, often much more severe than the current one, are common–and have been for centuries. What’s been going on for the past several years falls clearly in the range of normal weather for the region, not an aberration that needs to be explained by larger factors, such as global warming.

I’m not a climate expert, and I’m not a global warming denier; however, I’m a meteorologist who has seen this time of extended dry period in California often enough to know that it does not need to be explained by anything other the normal variation of weather.

Dust Storm Video

By the way, the California Academy of Sciences recently filed a video report about the prospects of dust storms in California (Dust Storms and Climate Change). It was filed after the recent major dust storm in Sydney, Australia.

–Paul Yeager


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