I think it’s fair to say the meteorologists at Oklahoma City’s local television stations have spun the expected cold front that’s supposed to hit the state today and tomorrow as one of the biggest weather events of the year.
The hype, which began at least a week in advance, warned us repeatedly and with great urgency of the coming high temperatures in the 40s today and maybe even in the 30s tomorrow with a chance of light snow. The snow is not supposed to stick, but it’s going to be cold in the overnight hours. That’s about all there was to the week-long drama.
But the real weather story is just the opposite: Oklahoma, which is in an extended drought, is on course to record its warmest year ever, and this brief cold front will do nothing to change the fact that the state is really one continuous epicenter showing the impact of manmade global warming.
Let’s discuss the drought first. The Oklahoma Climatological Survey (OCS) reports the state was the driest on record from May to November this year with only 12.9 inches of rain, breaking the 1952 record. It’s always possible that December could bring the needed moisture to break the drought, but today’s cold front is not expected to have much impact at all.
Meanwhile, the state’s average temperature through November at 64.9 degrees broke the record of 64.7 degrees set in 1954, according to OCS. Nationwide, 2012 is also expected to be the warmest on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Even if we get relief from the drought in December and the state doesn’t break its annual record for the warmest average temperature, no one is likely to argue that the drought has not taken its toll on the state or that it’s not been unusually warm this year.
Why this information about extended drought and extended warm temperatures and their argued relationship to global warming hasn’t consistently accompanied and balanced the overwrought warnings of coming cold temperatures over the past week is an intellectual failure of our local television meteorologists and their bosses. Or is it intentional omission?
Well, we do know that the world’s most famous global warming skeptic, Oklahoma’s own U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, once listed longtime News9 meteorologist Gary England as one of 44 television weatherpersons who "doubt global warming." There’s also the issue that local oil and gas companies, such as Devon Energy, Chesapeake Energy and Sandridge Energy, purchase a lot of television advertising. It’s just common sense these companies wouldn’t appreciate a local meteorologist presenting full views about the dangers of global warming caused by manmade carbon emissions.
Of course, there’s also the argument that our local television meteorologists simply lack the intellectual capacity to do more than look good, make corny jokes with the anchors and regurgitate information provided by the National Weather Service.
I’m not advocating the weather segments of television news shows should become referendums on climate change or that one isolated weather event should always be blamed in breathless newspeak as an impact of global warming or, in the case of today’s cold front, its antithesis.
But relentless hype about the arrival today of an extremely brief cold front with light or actually no precipitation in different areas of the state needs some perspective. We are in a damaging drought, and our high temperatures this year can be blamed for everything from wildfires to a record increase in cases of the West Nile virus to a shortage of water supplies. That’s what deserves the hype, not snow flurries in December.
This is serious business, and leading scientists in our age see our particular weather conditions in Oklahoma over the last few decades—as well as an increase in severe weather events like Hurricane Sandy throughout the world—as the long-term, systemic effects of a warming planet caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
The silence of our local meteorologists continues to be deafening.
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