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Dr. Heidi Cullen: The Weather of the Future

What will the weather be like in the future? Dr. Heidi Cullen, noted climatologists and author of the book, The Weather of the Future , gave a public talk in Tulsa explaining how global warming is causing the weather to be more extreme. She explained that our future holds an increasing number of extreme weather events unless we act to reduce our carbon emissions.  There was an article in the local Tulsa World newspaper announcing the talk; however,  there was no follow-up article describing the talk or her research on climate change. Tulsa Oklahoma was once considered the oil capital of the world and many of the local politicians and oil company executives that live there do not have a favorable opinion of climate change, so her message was one many Oklahomans needed to hear. To correct the newspaper’s oversight, the author sent the following letter to the editor, which outlined the main points of her talk. The letter generated some controvery and there were a number of comments on the letter.

In her talk, Dr. Cullen explained how global warming is changing our climate. Climate describes the average weather, and research shows the Earth’s average weather has been changing. It is difficult to recognize the pattern of change and only by analyzing millions of weather and temperature records is it possible to see the pattern. Over the last century, NASA’s temperature records show that the Earth’s temperature has increased by about 1°F. That has increased the energy in the atmosphere and the moisture in the air over the oceans. That combination is causing our weather to become more extreme, as you have probably noticed from the events that have happened lately.

Dr.Cullen explained that climate is complex, made up of both natural and man-made factors, and the scientific research has been directed toward identifying the contributions of each. Carbon dioxide was identified in the 19th century as one component of the atmosphere that helps warm the Earth. Our activities have increased the CO2 concentration in the air by 37% since then, and undoubtedly much of the recent warming has been caused by man. Detailed studies of extreme weather events have shown that global warming contributed to their severity. Although that may seem bad news, the upside of that is that if we are responsible for it, we can change it.

The first step in that process is to immediately begin to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel energy sources. Dr. Cullen outlined what our energy needs will be by 2050 and showed how we can reduce our carbon emissions and meet our energy needs by then with mostly renewable sources. She explained that building the infrastructure for renewable energy will create jobs and contribute to our economy. Rather than considering the cost of doing so a mortgage on future generations, we should consider reducing pollution and developing sustainable energy sources as an investment in our future.

(c) 2011 J.C. Moore

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