Arkansas and the National Climate Assessment

May 14, 2014


The third National Climate Assessment was released last week and the congressionally mandated research, compiled by 13 agencies and 240 scientists, concludes a warming climate is and will be having negative consequences for Arkansas.

Jerry Hatfield, a director at the USDA’s National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment, said the effects aren’t just on personal comfort levels.

“You look specifically across the southern tier of states including Arkansas we’re expecting the temperatures to expecting to increase but also to become more variable with the potential for more extreme temperature events during the summer. Occurrences in which temperatures might be plus 100 degrees occurring for several days in a row that would have implications for crops and a lot of implications for livestock,” said Hatfield.

The assessment projects more severe storms, increased precipitation, and shifting seasonality will become more pronounced in coming decades. Hatfield said this year’s particularly cold winter is not inconsistent with assessment’s findings.

“It’s always hard to talk about a rising temperature trend. People say, ‘well if it’s a rising temperature trend how come it’s colder than I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime?’ Part of it is we are going to see larger and larger variations in temperature and larger and larger variations in our precipitation. A year like the winter of 2013 and 2014 that set record cold temperatures are not opposed to the fact that our temperatures may be warming,” said Hatfield.

Critics, making up about three percent of peer reviewed studies published in scientific journals, argue the National Climate Assessment is ideologically driven, alarmist, and incorrect in the conclusion the Earth is rapidly warming because of activity by humans. Hatfield rejects arguments by those skeptical humans could have such a profound effect on climate.

He said, “We think climate is really well behaved but in reality it’s not. There’s an ownership that humans have. We’ve increased our CO2 levels, we’ve changed our landscape, and we evaporate more water. All of those are constituents that we put back into the atmosphere and every one of those CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor all begin to change these climate signals that are going on, they chance the dynamics of the atmosphere.”

Both highlights  and the full study are available here.