Michigan’s Mythical Coming Drought

Record snows hit the South and the Middle Atlantic states in recent months. Naturally in today's climate of debate the question arises: Was such severe winter weather due to global warming?

One expert opinion delivered through the media was "perhaps." The explanation was that as air warms, it can hold greater volumes of water vapor, resulting in heavier precipitation when it collides with cold air.

That's a perplexing opinion to us in Michigan, for we've been repeatedly told to expect the opposite. Purported human-caused global warming, according to a well-publicized scenario, will drop Great Lakes levels as much as six feet by the end of the century because warm air will cause more evaporation — more atmospheric water vapor — and therefore less precipitation.

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So which is it? In one region an increase in water vapor leads to wetter conditions, but not far away in Michigan an increase in water vapor will lead to dryer conditions.

The dryness scenario was dismantled by climatologist Patrick J. Michaels in his 2004 book "Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media." The scenario source is a report during the Clinton administration titled "The U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change," referred to in abbreviated form as "The U.S. National Assessment" or USNA.

USNA was produced by a committee that through a convoluted structure was under the authority of the cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council, of which Vice President Al Gore was an influential member. The USNA project began in 1998 and was published at election time in 2000 when Gore was attempting to become president. The political over layering of USNA was so heavy that the real purpose was, as Michaels phrased it, to "produce a document that pleases the council." Alarmism was the political order of the day, and pending disastrous drought is a potent weapon.

For the "science" in the analysis, USNA employed two radical-fringe global-warming forecasting models based on projected atmospheric increases of so-called greenhouse gases.  Since such increases have been occurring for a century, the forecasting validity can be tested through "hindcasting," plugging the models into the past and seeing if they correlate with observed data for subsequent periods. Michaels ran the numbers and found that the models bore no predictive relationship to reality. He contacted the assessment team developing USNA about this "scientific failure" but essentially received a brush-off.

Michaels described the scenario USNA prepared for the Southeast as "preposterous." One radical model forecasts the average July heat index (how hot it feels based on air temperature and relative humidity) at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, a "ludicrous" figure because of temperature-restricting moisture in the region. Even in the Amazon Basin, Michaels noted, the heat index tops out at about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Great Lakes region is victim to another scenario absurdity. Figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show a rise in annual precipitation from 1895 to 2001, a climb that occurred as greenhouse-gas concentrations increased. But henceforth such increases are supposed to shift into reverse and make the region drier.

Michaels summarized the USNA effort as producing "a biophysical world that simply cannot exist on this earth, an entire new climate and ecosystem that is made up of a combination of things that simply cannot coexist."

So under a regime of human-induced global warming, will Michigan get dryer or wetter or stay the same? Probably.

Since publication of the Michaels book the paradigm of human-caused global warming has come under a cloud of suspicion. One of the radical models used in USNA is from the United Kingdom's Meteorological Office, which worked closely with the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit that has produced suspect data and engaged in conduct unbecoming strict scientific inquiry. In addition, while global industrialization has expanded greenhouse-gas production in the last dozen years, the Earth has refused to abide by the models and has not warmed.

As the skein of human-caused global warming unravels, its threat does not lessen, of course.  Unchanged is its function as a pretext for establishing a government-planned command-and-control economy. True believers under threat merely mobilize into intensified urgency.   

Forecast: A new onslaught of radical pro-global-warming propaganda.


Daniel Hager is an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly cited.