Climate change: Drought, floods, tornadoes part of 'new normal'?
Oklahoma has always been known for its bad weather. But this year has beat all others, in nearly every category.
In a year in which the continental U.S. has experienced its most extreme weather on record, Oklahomans may well be the symbols of the "new normal" of unpredictable weather extremes caused by shifting climate due to a buildup of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.
The irony won't be lost on those who follow the political debate over climate change in Congress. One of the most vocal deniers of the scientific consensus on man-caused planetary warming is Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has delayed the nomination of John Bryson as Commerce secretary because Inhofe says Bryson's views on climate are too radical.
Oklahoma's misery has been writ large across the country this year, which federal climate scientists have labeled one of the worst in American history for extreme weather.
With punishing blizzards, epic flooding, devastating drought and a heat wave that has broiled a huge swath of the country, the 2011 weather has been unrelenting and extraordinary. In addition to hundreds of deaths from cold and heat and tornadoes, the national economic toll for extreme weather so far this year is estimated at $35 billion, more than five times the average annual loss.
And, climatologists warn, get used to it.
-- Julie Cart
Photo: Residents in Guthrie, Okla., salvage belongings after a tornado in May. The previous month, Oklahoma reported a record 50 tornadoes. Credit: Sean Mullins / Associated Press