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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials July 9, 2014

8/9/2012 1:07:00 PM
Editorial: Heat wave: Can’t stop Depression era comparisons

It really was a hot one.

No matter where you went in the lower 48 states in July, it seemed oppressively hot. Apparently it didn’t just seem so; it was a record-breaking fact. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this week that the average temperature across the country last month was the highest ever recorded since they started keeping such records in 1895.

The second hottest July was back in 1936.

It is yet another comparison this era has to the Great Depression, and none of those comparisons can be good. The question is, what have we learned since then?

Certainly the economic collapse that defined the ‘30s was more unhinged, the accompanying heat and drought more devastating and long-lasting. From a historical perspective, the great thing about the Great Depression is that it is the lowest touchstone we have. No matter how bad things have gotten, they have not been that bad. But it is still too close for comfort.

We like to think we put in enough regulations to stop markets and banks from completely imploding again, but the past five years have shown us how complacency and lack of imagination can let greed overrule good intentions. We like to think farming methods have been altered and advanced, but a long drought can eat through the highest production technology.

At the moment, drought conditions have touched 63 percent of the country. That drives food prices higher nationwide, causes more hardship for farmers, and weakens recovery.

Even though the majority of the U.S. population is no longer rural, the national weather and the national economy remain vulnerable to one another. After steps were taken to prevent another Great Depression and another Dust Bowl, it was easy to forget hard times during bountiful times and easy to return to bad habits.

The perspective of 76 years should allow us to manage these challenges more wisely. Otherwise, the heat wave of July 2012 is another reminder that the country is susceptible to same troubles of the 1930s. And we don’t need another reminder.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012
Article comment by: Dan McLaughlin

re. Slater Slater

It may be as earth shaking Biblical, because I know there weren't near as many people trying to use all the water in the area as there is now. Make jokes but the water shortage is a fact and if it continues with the rate of growth we are experiencing, the lack of water will effect the economy even more, and we will all have to make hard decisions on who leaves and who stays. By the way, everything that happens until the end of time is Biblical.

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012
Article comment by: 76 year perspective is miniscule

Reality check needed: a 76 year perspective in human terms may sound ample, but in geologic terms it is miniscule.

And geologic time is really the determinant of the larger picture here.

Scientists know Earth's climate has been warming for at least 10,000 years. That's how long glaciers have been melting since the last major ice age. All this warming isn't sudden, and it's not based on what man has done or not done since the 1980s or 1990s or even since the industrial revolution of the 1800s. A century is trivial in geologic time.

Earth scientists will also tell you that incontrovertible evidence proves global warmings are cyclical, as are global coolings.

So another ice age is inevitable.

Anyone remember just three decades ago when the popular media was swooning over the possibility of another impending ice age?

So the most salient question isn't really about global warming. That's happening whether we dump billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere or not.

And rest assured stopping anthropogenic carbon will not put a halt to the Earth's natural warming process either. These forces are far larger than what man does or does not do.

So the question really is -- knowing what we do about the reality of the big weather picture -- what should we reasonably do, if anything, about it?

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2012
Article comment by: David Perrell

Thanks for a refreshingly moderate take on a polarizing issue.

Some climate researchers don't accept as "record-breaking fact" that U.S. average temperature in July 2012 exceeded July 1936 by 0.2F. NOAA bases that claim on COOP/USHCN station data; the newer USCRN data tells a different story. But with average temperature supposed to be increasing 0.23F per decade it would be odd if old records were not broken at some point. And though the current drought is not yet as severe as the 1950s (much less the 1930s), we can't say what the future has in store. NOAA paleo data shows 1950s-severity droughts occurring 1-2 times per century over the last 300-400 years, and more extended droughts prior to those. So, yes, we should be as prepared as possible for dry times ahead.

Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2012
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Sounds Biblical.

Posted: Saturday, August 11, 2012
Article comment by: Dan McLaughlin

Now that the majority of the seasons monsoon activity is over with we need to keep in mind what the major concern for the Verde Valley and the rest of the state is. Laws governing everything else will not mean anything untill we solve the Water situation. Everyone has pet concerns surrounding their lives, and Water and Water laws should be the number one concern in this state for everyone.

With continued growth our rivers and streams are completely tapped out, yet we have grandfathered in laws that allow so many people that use the ground Water and river Water in such arrogant frivelous and wasteful ways it defies common sense. Everyone takes their tap Water for granted and if the laws don't change soon that tap Water will turn into even less of a trickle than it is now. There will be no Water if the drought continues and it looks like it will.

Water conservation and laws concerning wells, golf courses, and grandfathered in irrigation shares, need to be addressed before it becomes "death valley" instead of the Verde Valley. This is our homes, jobs, and way of life that is at stake here! Water is life and without Water everyone will have to leave. Don't take that tap Water for granted, it is in much shorter supply than you realize.

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