U.S. temperature state rankings for 2006. Source: NOAA.
As I noted in a previous entry, 2006 was the United States’ warmest year on record and the sixth-warmest year worldwide. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently its yearly weather summary, including this amusing map showing temprature rankings of U.S. states. The NOAA attributed the trend to both El Niño and global warming and was surprisingly open about human-induced climate change, given that it is a U.S government agency. It said:
The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was the warmest on record and nearly identical to the record set in 1998, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.…The unusually warm start to this winter reflected the rarity of Arctic outbreaks across the country as an El Niño episode continued in the equatorial Pacific. A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases. This has made warmer-than-average conditions more common in the U.S. and other parts of the world. It is unclear how much of the recent anomalous warmth was due to greenhouse-gas–induced warming and how much was due to the El Niño–related circulation pattern. It is known that El Niño is playing a major role in this winter’s short-term warm period.
The attempts by the Bush administration to ignore and suppress inconvenient science have been widely observed. As the editors of Scientific American note in the current (February 2007) issue,
For years, scientists worried that Republican politicians ignored science and were even downright antagonistic to it.
Aside from the attempts to interfere with research in global warming, there have been several other well-publicized examples, including an attempt by a young Bush appointee to tone down language at NASA regarding the big bang (see, for instance, the New York Times article), making statements such as
[The big bang is] not proven fact; it is opinion.…It is not NASA’s place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.
However, there are signs that things may change with the next administration. Catherine Brahic, at New Scientist, writes
Two strong candidates for the 2008 US presidential elections have joined forces to address climate change.
On Friday, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama—plus independent senator Joe Lieberman—will present a bill in Congress calling for mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, industry and oil refineries.
Let’s hope that voters continue to stay aware of these issues.