Right Opinion

Lost in the Flood: The Whole Truth on the Great Plains Disaster

Joe Bastardi · Mar. 28, 2019

The flooding disaster that has enveloped parts of the Great Plains, centered in Nebraska, is quite likely going to be the biggest weather event of the year. I say this despite knowing there is a threat of another big wildfire season and despite the fact that during El Niños, major hurricanes have been known to hit even if the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index is down overall.

For the Great Plains, the current flooding is a nightmare of epic proportions that will be tough to top.

The cause can be traced to the combination of natural events. The extreme cold deep into March led to almost all weather events being snow, and there was little snow melt between the storms. The extreme cold resulted in a deep frost layer. In fact, when the March 13-14 rainstorm — the storm that “broke the dam,” so to speak — hit, the frost layer was two-feet deep in some places. There was no soaking into the ground. Tom Downs and Joe D'Aleo, WeatherBELL’s agricultural experts, were warning people a week in advance about the threat of flooding.

As for the intensity of the storm, we had a storm in 1973 of almost the same magnitude in terms of barometric pressure. Nature can get extreme, and to think it won’t try to exceed past limits is a misunderstanding of what the weather can do. Of course, the lesser events far outweigh the extreme events, but that is never reported. No one is going to be flying helicopters over New Jersey today with reports of a chilly spring day with no snow on the ground. That’s not going to be a weather headline. But what is going on further west is.

But here’s the thing. You had three natural events occur in the Great Plains. Two of them involved cold (extreme temperatures and a deep snowpack) while the other involved a three-day warm interval with a lot of rain, but the storm had precedent. They all came together.

The missive is that “climate change” caused the flooding. But let’s examine this. The argument is that extra CO2 made the storm 1.5 millibars stronger (in laymen’s terms, that’s minuscule) than the 1973 storm.

How can we know that the extreme snow cover, cold, and heavy rain is linked to CO2? And how can we know that the intersection of these three natural events was caused by CO2?

We can’t know.

But here is what we do know. The missive at the end of 2012 was that the Great Plains and the West were heading into a climate-change-induced perma-drought. This is conveniently forgotten. The reversal that followed was similar to the reversal that occurred in the 1950s. At the height of the drought hysteria, the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) looked like this:

This past February it looked like this:

​The idea, of course, was that warming would lead to more ridging aloft, resulting in less rain. But the fact it is raining more now (we know surface temperatures are warming a bit, which can be linked to warmer oceans) likely means that the upper levels of the atmosphere — which the drought hysterics were based upon — are not warming.

Despite this, the same people who proclaimed that perpetual drought would lead to crop shortages are turning around and saying the opposite result makes them right. How can they do this, especially when there is no conclusive link to CO2?

Increased moisture from warmer oceans certainly is known for affecting precipitation patterns, and there were droughts that arguably were worse than what we had several years ago. Example: February 1955. Here is the corresponding drought severity index:

Three years later, there was a dramatic reversal. How is one decade’s pattern change man-made climate change but the other is not?

Back to the current situation in Nebraska. We have gone from “children are not going to know what snow is anymore” to “more snow is consistent with global warming.” I agree with the latter, since that’s natural climate cycle theory! Oceans warm, and though the atmosphere does warm up in response, it is not enough to prevent snow in areas where it’s predominately cold. With more moisture in the air, it will snow more, which then builds a greater snowpack.

Look at what has been going on in the Northern Hemisphere in terms of snow reach:

That snow melts in the warm season, and that has an effect on the oceans, mainly the Atlantic, which has more exposure to the areas that melt. As I have said before, this is what used to be taught in meteorology school, and this effect seems to be happening now. In fact, global warming sets the stage for global cooling, with of course other factors getting involved. But it’s at least partly, if not mostly, the reason we see ups and downs.

We all know the sun, the oceans, stochastic events, and even the way the planet is laid out have always played a role. So why is it that it’s now because of the influence of man? I won’t say it has no chance (I don’t wish to insult anyone), but I will say there is plenty of reason to question and be skeptical of reports that ignore the natural causes and simply run to blame “climate change.”

The climate always changes. The weather is capable of lacking big variations, but it’s also capable of going to extremes. When known natural events combine and the weather goes to extremes, chances are it’s not because of man-made climate change. Rather, it’s because of the very factors that Tom and Joe were warning people about before.

I suspect neither of them factored in CO2. Which is again why I think climatologists should be required to make long-range forecasts so they can understand the variances that can occur naturally to a system as majestic as what we all love to watch. It is then that some perspective can be factored in.

The weaponization of weather is escalating into an arms race of fact vs. fiction for control of people’s feelings.


Joe Bastardi, a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting, is a contributor to The Patriot Post on environmental issues. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”

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