While Southern Oregon endures some of the worst air quality in the country from dozens of large wildfires, the residents of Houston cope with the largest natural disaster in our nation's history. Both events are evidence, scientists say, of climate change.
That is not to say that climate change caused Hurricane-turned Tropical Storm-turned Tropical Depression Harvey. It didn't; Harvey would have happened anyway. What climate change — specifically, warming ocean water that increased moisture in the atmosphere — did was turn Harvey from an annoyance into a catastrophe.
Similarly, wildfires have always happened in Western forests and always will. But research shows that fire seasons are starting earlier and ending later, the fires are larger and each blaze lasts longer. One study found the average duration of a wildfire in the decade ending in 2012 was 52 days. In the 1970s, it was six.
Harvey dropped 20 trillion gallons of rain over five days — 3.6 times the flow of the Mississippi River. It is being called the worst rainstorm in U.S. history. Harvey is Houston's third "500-year flood" in three years.
Researchers say wildfire size and duration are directly linked to drier forests, the result of warmer temperatures and decreasing rainfall.
Some say it is "politicizing" disasters to link them to climate change. But scientists have been warning of these consequences for years.
To ignore those warnings because it might cost money or impede development is a political decision. Residents of Houston — and Oregon — are paying the price.