Elwynn Taylor, a long-respected ag climatologist and teacher of meteorology at Iowa State University, explained weather trends at the Purdue Top Crop Farmer Workshop for two decades. Recently he met with Midwest farmers at the Farm Progress Show and addressed weather issues that were on their mind, including whether or not global warming is real.
That's a natural question after such a hot, near-record setting summer. However, remember that the records it didn't quite break were in the 1930's, more than 70 years ago.
Here are questions from the farmer audience.
Question: Will the impact of the drought on crops in the Midwest be as bad this year as in 1988?
TAYLOR: No, not across the whole Corn Belt. I'm basing my projections for how the 2012 crop will end up across the Corn Belt on weather data. USDA bases its estimates on observation, not weather information.
Question: So is global warming real?
TAYLOR: There have been periods of warming before. Obviously there was an ice age, then it warmed up. What you're really asking is if global warming is real and caused by people.
What we can say is that people have caused some changes. For example, go back to the 1920's when Freon was invented. It was used in refrigeration units because it was safe. Early refrigerators used anhydrous ammonia, which wasn't safe if there was a leak. Reported cases of families dying because anhydrous leaked out are on the record. Decades later we discovered Freon was contributing to breaking down the ozone. We made changes and no longer use Freon.
I can also tell you that when I was a young man carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was lower than it is today. Burning fossil fuels is partly why it's changed. The fact that the carbon dioxide levels are higher today is a fact.