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Climatologist sees mixed forecast in global warming

Agriculture.com Staff 03/27/2009 @ 2:54pm

Iowa State University climatologist Elwynn Taylor shared his views on global warming to a meeting room packed with farmers at a restaurant in Crystal Lake, Minnesota Tuesday. He couldn't have picked a better day for it -- cold and rainy.

If you live in the Corn Belt, you should expect more rainy weather, with a lot more water flowing in your streams and rivers, Taylor said.

Taylor is convinced that global warming is taking place, and that human activity has at least something to do with it. But he refrains from sensational forecasts of doom and gloom.

"The climate has changed. It will always change. That's what it does," Taylor said.

As the Earth continues to warm, some climate scientists have predicted "the creation of desserts across the Midwestern United States," as British writer, Mark Lynas says in his book, Six Degrees, for example.

Taylor said that climate change is actually making the Midwest wetter because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture.

Over the past 50 years, every river originating in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota has doubled its flow of water, even though rainfall has increased by about 10%, he said. That's because as rainfall increases, plants use less of it and more runs into streams.

"The Corn Belt has increased in moisture. It's expanded in yields and it's expanded in floods," Taylor said.

Besides getting more rainfall, the Midwest is also getting more days with rainfall that exceeds four inches, he said.

All this means that a 100-year flood, one that's so intense that the odds of it happening in any year are 1 in 100, is more likely.

"Now it's not one chance in 100, it's one chance in 17 of having a 100-year flood," he said.

Iowa State University climatologist Elwynn Taylor shared his views on global warming to a meeting room packed with farmers at a restaurant in Crystal Lake, Minnesota Tuesday. He couldn't have picked a better day for it -- cold and rainy.

Some climatologists believe that as the planet continues to warm, the Midwest will get even wetter while others see a shift to a drier climate. "Well, we don't know," Taylor said.

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