agriculture * food * energy * environment
With a major winter storm blasting its way across the country leaving fridge temperatures, howling winds and a lot snow, global warming may not be on the minds of a lot of people.
But theWorld Meterological Organzation (WMO) reported Tuesday that the year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850.
According to WMO, the global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for 2009 (January–October) is currently estimated at 0.44°C ± 0.11°C (0.79°F ± 0.20°F) above the 1961–1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.2°F. The current nominal ranking of 2009, which does not account for uncertainties in the annual averages, places it as the fifth-warmest year. The decade of the 2000s (2000–2009) was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s (1990–1999), which in turn was warmer than the 1980s (1980–1989).
This year above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the continents, WMO reported. Only North America (United States and Canada) experienced conditions that were cooler than average. Given the current figures, large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record.
Climate extremes, including devastating floods, severe droughts, snowstorms, heatwaves and cold waves, were recorded in many parts of the world, according to WMO. This year the extreme warm events were more frequent and intense in southern South America, Australia and southern Asia, in particular. La Niña conditions shifted into a warm-phase El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in June. The Arctic sea ice extent during the melt season ranked the third lowest, after the lowest and second-lowest records set in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Global warming is not in your backyard type of observable phenomena. Since our planet is mostly water and our oceans are a big weather maker, warming up the seas, even by a degree or two, impacts weather across the globe.
Steve Chick, Nebraska state conservationist for the NRCS, said a U.S. Census report showed what he calls a ”rather alarming population trend numbers for the period of 2000 to 2008.”
Chick said only 17 counties in Nebraska showed population increases during that time frame and most of those are in Eastern Nebraska surrounding Omaha and Lincoln.
He said the greatest percentage declining counties in Nebraska were Blaine (26.6%), Arthur (23.9%), Garden (23%) and Thomas (20%), but there were 38 counties with greater than 10% population declines.
In actual numbers of decline, Chick said Holt County had the greatest decline at 1318 followed by Richardson (1237), Cedar (1208), Madison (1206), Box Butte (1115) and Keith (1054).
“Perhaps more alarming to me is the concentration of declines within the state,” he said. ”The Panhandle counties generally suffered relatively high numbers and high percentages of loss as did the tier of counties along the Kansas border within the Republican River Basin.”
He said those were two areas hit extremely hard by the drought, which makes him wonder how much impact that may have had on these population declines.
“It reminds me of the story of Old Jules, who along with many other early settlers were drawn to the Box Butte County area during times of plentiful moisture, but when normal dry conditions returned many were forced to retreat,” Chick said.
He said the other significant tier of counties impacted is the extremely rural area generally within the Sandhills.
“It is these kinds of rural America population declines that are creating national policy discussions on what can be done to help rural economies be more sustainable,” Chick said.
There are some positive surprises in the numbers, he siad.
According to the Census Bureau, Cheyenne County stands alone as an island in the Panhandle with a +1.4% population increase. The interstate row of counties of Lincoln, Dawson, Buffalo and Hall Counties are all on the positive side with Buffalo showing a +7.3% increase. Overall Nebraska showed a +4.2% gain increasing in numbers by 72,166 to 1,783,432.
“ I am certainly no expert on what these numbers really mean, but I would like for NRCS to respond in anyway possible to use our conservation programs to help stabilize the rural to urban shift within Nebraska,” Chick said.
John Crabtree for the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska said skyrocketing health care costs are undermining the foundations of the rural economy – self-employment and small business.
“Family farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses are among the hardest hit by premium hikes. And as premiums rise, fewer rural entrepreneurs can take the leap of faith to start a farm, ranch or business,” he said.
Crabtree said the Senate’s health care bill will make insurance more affordable by providing refundable tax credits to offset insurance premiums for families and small businesses.
“The proposal also contains crucial reforms to the insurance industry including, prohibiting denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, requiring premiums be used to cover actual medical care, and ensuring individuals are not stuck with unexpected and unaffordable out-of-pocket expenses,” he said.
The establishment of an insurance exchange to increase competition and standardize information allowing easier comparison of insurance plans by consumers, Crabtree said, will also lower prices for family farmers, ranchers, small businesses and working families.
“The Senate would address rural America’s medical provider shortage by forgiving college loans to doctors who practice in rural areas and increasing support for rural students to become family physicians. Moreover, the bill takes a major step in correcting the payment inequities that have plagued rural health care providers,” he said.
Crabtree said no proponent of reform would call the Senate proposal perfect.
“But it is crucial to maintain and strengthen the bill’s reforms and affordability provisions as the debate continues and then pass this historic legislation. Rural America wants and needs the reforms that the Senate proposal offers.” he said.
Cooler North American temperatures in 2008 resulted from a strong natural effect, and the overall warming trend that has been observed since 1970 is likely to resume, according to university and NOAA scientists.
“Our work shows that there can be cold periods, but that does not mean the end of global warming. The recent coolness was caused by transitory natural factors that temporarily masked the human-caused signal,” said Judith Perlwitz, lead author of the study and a researcher with the Cooperative Institute for Research Environmental Sciences, and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, both in Boulder, Colo. The paper will be published Dec. 8 in Geophysical Research Letters.