We’ve been reading Utah University Atmospheric Science Professor Jim Steenburgh’s blog quite a bit recently to understand current weather trends. According to the professor, this year’s December and January averaged 5.7ºF above normal. If we look at long term expectations, with moderate to high emission continuing… this is what our part of the Wasatch would expect in 2060.
However, Steenburgh states that the western part of our country experiences vast fluctuations in weather. So, over the next few decades we will likely continue to vacillate between great winters and those not as good. So, in the short-term we appear to fine for now.
Professor Steenburgh then states, “Let’s suppose these estimates of warming are overdone. Maybe we only warm 2ºF by 2060. That’s fine, but the odds and frequency of years like this [years] are likely to increase even under that scenario.”
The takeaway is that we likely need to be planning for this future. Since we are not the smartest guys in the room, we don’t know exactly what that means but it does mean envisioning weather patterns trending toward what we have seen this year. Perhaps that means planning for less water and less population. Perhaps that means finding a place near Big Sky in Montana, since that frigid tundra should be quite nice in 2060.
Whatever it means specifically, it generally means that the next 30 years won’t be like the last 30 years and we shouldn’t be so short sighted to extrapolate the future based on the recent past. Many of the obligations we sign ourselves up for are 20-30 years (think bond offerings for recreation, schools, trails, etc.). In 20-30 years, things could be quite different.