Green Fatigue

Nancy Selover, State Climatologist, Doesn't Really Expect 100-Degree Winters in Phoenix, Despite Republic Article

We had a temporary, though intense, urge to flee the state after reading Michael Clancy's climate-change apocalypse story in today's Arizona Republic.

Clancy's story describes how climate change could turn Arizona from the paradise it is today into a scorched, polluted, economically challenged wasteland that swelters in winter as well as summer.

Fortunately for us and others who would prefer to stay here, one of the experts Clancy quotes has backed off from the idea that it's likely the Valley will see routine 100-degree temperatures in future Januaries.

Clancy's article states:

Ultimately, in a worst-case scenario, the experts predict a "summer" season running from April to January, with temperatures near or above 100 degrees. Now, the period with those temperatures is about five months.

"With warmer temperatures, snow levels will move higher, meaning we will have less snowpack," said Nancy Selover, the state climatologist.

We called Selover this morning and read her the above passage.

"I don't agree with that at all," Selover says of the part about 100-degree temps from April to January.

Sure, a random and exceptional day in some future January could hit a high of 100 degrees, Selover acknowledges. But she doubts it anything like that would be common. And at this point in climate research, no one knows for certain about such things, she says

One big problem in climate-change models that attempt to predict Arizona's future weather is that none of them currently take the annual monsoon into account, she says. As weather scientists learn more about how monsoons work, the data will be introduced into future climate models. That could have an affect on predictions, she says.

Selover does agree, however, that a warming climate could raise the level of snowpack in Arizona mountains by 500 or 1,000 feet, which would result in less water and more wildfires. But Selover says she avoids going "apocalyptic" about the potential for climate-change problems. Arizona is good about managing water, and future residents will have to learn how to better manage the fire threat.

"If we ever get warmer in the future, we should be able to find ways to deal with it," she says.

As people who call this godforsaken desert home, we certainly hope she's right.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.