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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news January 25, 2015

6/13/2011 10:06:00 PM
Slowing economy doesn't slow greenhouse emissions
Arizona faces strong impacts compared to other states
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Mike Crimmins, an associate 
professor/extension specialist 
for the Department of Soil, 
Water and Environmental 
Science and Arizona Cooperative Extension at The University 
of Arizona, talks at the monthly 
Citizens Water Advocacy Group meeting in Prescott 
Saturday morning.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Mike Crimmins, an associate professor/extension specialist for the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science and Arizona Cooperative Extension at The University of Arizona, talks at the monthly Citizens Water Advocacy Group meeting in Prescott Saturday morning.

Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - When a University of Arizona climate scientist displayed a chart Saturday showing an exponential increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere over the past 150 years, his Prescott audience emitted a collective gasp.

Michael Crimmins, an assistant professor at UofA and Extension Office climate science specialist, first displayed a relatively flat line showing greenhouse gas emissions over a 10,000-year time period. Then he added the last 150 years to show a vertical spike.

"This is not within natural variability," he told the audience at the Citizens Water Advocacy Group meeting.

As the CO2 level in its atmosphere rises, the Earth tries to force it out with increasing temperatures, Crimmins said.

"There's an imbalance in the planet's energy balance," he explained.

Despite the economic downturn, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels set a new record in 2010, Crimmins noted.

Greenhouse gasses have long residence times, he said. So even if humans stabilized emissions immediately, it would take thousands of years for the gasses to reduce substantially in the atmosphere.

For Arizona, climate change means warmer temperatures that bring less winter snow, less spring runoff and less water in streams for the summer. Northern Arizona ecosystems have evolved to depend on spring runoff from these winter storms. The snowpack across the region holds much more water than reservoirs, and it has decreased over the past two decades, he said.

Climate change in Arizona also means more evapotranspiration (moisture lost to the atmosphere and plants), loss of water in reservoirs, and drier soils.

Experts predict more extreme weather events such as more intense drought periods, more flooding and more extreme heat events for Arizona, Crimmins added.

Scientists now have a "very high confidence" that these events will occur without efforts to decrease greenhouse gasses, Crimmins said.

"This is strong language for scientists," he added, later explaining that "We're not really in cahoots - we're always trying to prove each other wrong."

Arizona warmed up more than the other lower 48 states in 1993-2008, he said.

He displayed a chart showing Yavapai County average temperatures rising over the past century.

"This is disconcerting for a lot of reasons," he said, noting evapotranspiration has a direct link to rising temperatures.

Rising temperatures exacerbate the impacts of drought, he said. For example, the 1950s drought in Arizona was much drier than the current drought, but since it's much warmer now, the current drought has killed off just as much vegetation.

Different vegetation is likely to replace what has died. South of Prescott, for example, brush is growing where the ponderosa pine forest burned in the Indian Fire of 2002.

Arizona now is experiencing one of its worst wildfire seasons in history, with ponderosa pine forests burning at unnatural intensities. One reason is because they are so overstocked from decades of wildfire suppression.

The La Niña weather pattern set off by a cooling tropical Pacific Ocean helped produce below-average precipitation across much of the Southwest this past winter, too. In Arizona, the southeast portion of the state has been hit hardest. Crimmins said Douglas has received only one-tenth of an inch of rain since October.

The Pacific Ocean has a strong influence on Arizona, Crimmins noted.

While precipitation is harder to predict in a warming climate, scientists say the high-pressure systems over Arizona that push out precipitation are likely to strengthen and push winter storm tracks to the north because of climate change.

Crimmins cited several online sources of scientific information about climate change in Arizona, including and, where people can ask experts questions online.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Article comment by: Renee Samantha Taylor

WHat I find so amusingly and yet sadly typical is that CONSISTENTLY, the deniers and naysayers who comment after such an article are the only people commenting whose writing is functionally illiterate, demonstrating through inability to construct a sentence the very same lack of intelligence being demonstrated by the blustery, defensive, groundless, basis-less comments. WHat I also find is that consistently, the comments (showing the pathetic level of thinking of most people, which means we'll probably never be able to change enough to save the earth) are even scarier than that statistics, which are alarming enough. it's just scary that people exist who actually think like this. If you're going to be a skeptic, for chrissake learn how to spell it!

Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Article comment by: Not Ablindperson

If you are a Climate Change skeptic, please travel to any or all accredited universities around the US and sit in on an natural science course or perhaps read a newly published textbook on Environmental Science.

Educated yourself on the processes of our natural system before you undercut the very scientific foundation that developed our modern world. It's time to wake up and smell what the Earth is cooking! This is not a sham or some politically agenda, it is science that is agreed upon by almost every researcher across the globe.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: captain crunch

Here we are the same old story-- some trying to push opinions and that I guess is ok but do we keep having to hear from Howard and John and Leslie that all have a goal. That goal time in and time out is to stop growth. Give it a rest and move back to the place you came from because there are a lot of us that just do not care about your mission in life.If you would at least give credit that there is another side than maybe you would have some credibility. Go to sleep with your blinders on it will be OK

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Anyway the Wind Blows

The assistant professor, as far as the article goes, mentions the possible climate consequences and mentions extreme weather events. Something we have been seeing here locally with extreme winds, record snows, wild fires. I think we need to look ahead to our preventive measures and to a program of strengthening and fire protecting buildings. This may include increasing wind-loads and non flammable exterior construction. Prescott can take up to about 75mph wind gust. We need to give serious thought to retrofitting existing building to meet gust up to 100-120 mph.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

I do not believe in man-caused "Climate Change."

Further, there has been so much discrediting of "Scientific" data on the subject that I am sceptical of all of it.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: William E

Oh please! I didn't realize the koolaid made it to Arizona...
Everyone repeat after me, " Al Gore didn't invent the Internet, but he did make up GloBULL Warming".

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Howard Mechanic

A couple readers asked how atmospheric gases could be determined from thousands of years ago. Dr. Crimmins explained how atmospheric gas is trapped in giant ice sheets. These ice sheets are similar to tree rings -- they are laid down in yearly layers. So by drilling ice cores we can go back thousands of years and analyze the gas from then.

There is no scientific debate that the increase in global warming gasses such as CO2 cause increased heating of the Earth.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Check where the science you are relying is coming from. Generally studies that deny climate change are funded by companies that profit from the type of energy that produces CO2. These industries have in fact run a successful campaign to discredit the actual science. How do they explain why the real science may be biased? "Greedy Academics, looking for grant money for studies." Please think critically, who makes more money? Petroleum companies or academics? Almost all civilized nations recognize that climate change caused by CO2 gases exists. The only one that doesn't? The U.S., where there has been a constant disinformation campaign over the past ten years or so. Again, think critically about where the information is coming from. And if, after all that, you still choose to believe that there is no climate change caused by human activity, all I can say is you'd better hope you're right.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Garry Rogers

Numerous sources of information are used to determine atmospheric CO2 levels before direct measurements began. The references in the Wikipedia article, "Carbon Dioxide in Earth's Atmosphere" describe the methods and results.
We do not have to rely on just one source. The Christian Science Monitor, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and many, many more are just a click away.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Leslie Hoy

Watch Dr. Crimmins' entire presentation, including audience Q&A at Other informative Web sites are: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
U.S. Global Change Research Program:
Southwest Climate Change Network:
Arizona Cooperative Extension Climate, Forest, Woodlands:

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Cynical Casandra

And how did the professor get his data from the years 500, 1000, 1500? A wild a** guess perhaps?

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: George G

First of all, there has not been an "exponential increase" in greenhouse gas concentrations in the last 150 years. Second, it has already been shown that US emissions of greenhouse gasses has slowed during the slowed economy. Third, the computer models that attribute "Global Warming" to greenhouse gas emissions have been consistently wrong, and even more so since the average of temperatures measured stabilized and then began slightly cooling more than a decade ago.

Most importantly, there are large numbers of "scientists" who disagree in the strongest terms with the assertions made in this article about the future climate.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: John Zambrano

Nice article Joanna. This is not my expertise but I have one correction. I believe Dr. Crimmins said that
as the energy levels level in its atmosphere rises because of the CO2 greenhouse effect, the Earth tries to force the energy out with increasing temperatures.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Tom Steele

The assistant professor has accepted the Al Gore model of man made rapid global warming. This model has been discredited I told the professor at the CWAG meeting. Ice core samples have proved increased CO2 gases FOLLOWED not led to increased temperatures. Also the "hockey stick" model in the charts show a radical change starting about 1990 which has been found to be flawed in the "Model's" elements of input. Imagine, the earth bumping along for thousands of years with major temperature changes at 1100 to 1450 AD when Greenland was a farming community and this was well before the industrial revolution. No, his climate and weather presentation was very believable and factual until he got into the IPCC 2007 United Nations hyped study and found to be fraudulent. "Man Caused" global warming is now called "climate change" to defer the criticism of those providing facts to refute the UN's flawed study. These same people predicted a "mini ice age" in the 1970's. CO2 makes up .38 of one percent of our atmosphere. We exhale it, plants and trees need it and it is NOT killing our planet. Politics from the UN is killing or attempting to kill Western Industry while letting Communist China off the hook. If it were a proven-real threat to be corrected by the world, then Red China and all the world countries should be a part of the solution. Check out sun spot cycles and the Antarctica ice core studies for yourself.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: There you go again

Let's see the raw data and we can draw our own conclusions, as was the East Anglecia University data. How many 'green house' gasses were emitted wen the earth was formed and the earth survived? How many 'green house' gasses were emitted from the 700 SQUARE MILES of mismanaged forest just burned in the state? Answer these questions, show us the raw data in your study, then we will listen.

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Article comment by: Doc Holliday

"gas emissions over a 10,000-year time period. Then he added the last 150 years to show a vertical spike."
Seriously? Where do these people get this sampling data from 150 or 10,000 years ago? Technology did not exist back then, this is another global warming sandwich they want everyone to eat. Look back at historical temperatures you will see many record high temperatures back in the early 1900's when we did not have "gas emissions". So folks, the sky is falling once again - better run out and buy one of these low emission vehicles that cost more than you will ever save in fuel to do your part in saving the planet. Donít forget to put your Coexist & Obama/Biden bumper stickers on shortly thereafter.

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