Tuesday, August 8, 2017

WI dismisses climate science as roads, farms and lives suffer

[Updated four times from 7/21/17]


Wisconsin's 2017 rainfall setting records:

Records date back 123 years.

For perspective - - Many Western Wisconsin roads and other infrastructure washed out in 2016 floods are still not rebuilt; one NW local official says he has seen a dozen 100-year-storms in the last 30 years, while a state official says road-building standards have not caught up 
with "evidence...pointing towards increasing frequency of large" storm events.
The state upgraded culverts and made improvements where possible while trying to restore travel routes as quickly as possible last summer, said Gary Brunner, chief project development engineer with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. And while making quick and quality repairs is crucial, Brunner said there is a need to look at how the state plans for storms like the one that ripped across northern Wisconsin.
"We do know that evidence is pointing towards increasing frequency of large events like this," Brunner said. "I don’t think the standards have really caught up in terms of how we should try to design for the future, because you also have to think about how are we going to pay for designing for the future..."
Brunner said it would break the bank if every local government tried to engineer roads to withstand 500-year to 1,000-year flood events like last July’s flood. Many towns have struggled to pay for repairs just to return them to their condition before the storm. Some local governments who have finished work are still waiting to be paid.

But you don't have to imagine that no one raised the alarm last year.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, (D-Alma), said after the 2016 floods:
Repairing rural roads is a huge challenge for every town board. For many years, the state budget provided less money than towns needed to keep up with routine wear and tear on roads. With the recent floods, new problems appeared and old problems are worse.
Likewise, conservation structures – dams and so forth – were not built to handle the storms we experienced. Again, state support has lagged behind needs.
Or that the US EPA hadn't been raising the alarm since 2003 - - a warning to local officials I heard for myself - - and which I have repeatedly cited on this blog:
Then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist and I attended a conference in Chicago in 2003, hosted by Mayor Richard Daley, where officials from the EPA told Midwestern elected leaders that climate change models predicted heavier rain events.
The EPA officials were urging the Midwestern leaders to adapt their planning and spending to more aggressively confront storm water and related services because heavier, intense rains were going to be come more frequent.
Part of the message was: forget the notion of the "100-year-storm." They'll come more often than that in the Midwest as the atmosphere warms.
And when I discovered last year that the Wisconsin DNR under Scott Walker had deleted climate change science and published data from its webpages, it deleted specific information about a warming climate tripping off more rain and flooding, including deletions like this which you can see for yourself:
Changes in rain and snowfall patterns (including more frequent and severe storms) could change water flow in streams and rivers and increase stream bank erosion and runoff pollution.
Updated 7/22:

Flood emergency disaster declarations for 17 additional Wisconsin Counties brings the current total to 20, or nearly 30% of the state's 72 counties.]
With apologies to Bob Dylan, you don't have to be a weatherman to know that Western Wisconsin has again been hammered with storms since last summer's road-and-bridge-breaking onslaught.

But as I wrote at the time:

Despite major floods, WI has zero interest in climate change  
Yet across the state, Southern Wisconsin keeps getting soaked as both the days and nights heat up:
Thursday’s high in Madison was 87 at 4:01 p.m., 5 degrees above the normal high... Thursday’s low in Madison was 67 at 5:38 a.m., 6 degrees above the normal low... 
For meteorological summer (June through August), Madison’s precipitation total rose to 11.4 inches, 4.09 inches above normal. The 2017 total rose to 27.06 inches, 7.92 inches above normal.

Millions in flood damage, millions of gallons of sewer overflows in Racine, Walworth, Kenosha counties

And 600 damaged properties just in Racine County two days ago.

So are these so-called 100-year storm events, or more or less weekly Wisconsin happenings?

Well, don't ask any of those science-types.

Because the state for ideological reasons has officially stopped recognizing the obvious implications of climate change and publishing such information on public sites.

Wisconsin has become warmer, especially at night, and wetter...
More frequent extreme precipitation events... 
More warming at night...and more warming up north and away
from Lake Michigan 
...issued by the highly-respected, science-based, data-driven Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts, (WICCI) program.

Change in Annual Average Precipitation (inches) from 1950 to 2006

From 1950 to 2006, Wisconsin as a whole has become wetter, with an increase in annual precipitation of 3.1 inches. This observed increase in annual precipitation has primarily occurred in southern and western Wisconsin, while northern Wisconsin has experienced some drying.
Yet Walker's "chamber of commerce mentality DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp has stepped away from the climate change initiative, according to the Lakeland Times newspaper last year: 
...Stepp says the agency's partnership with WICCI has come to an end.
The agency was heavily involved in the 2011 assessment by WICCI that still serves as the group's benchmark, but Stepp says those days are long gone.
"That was a study that was done through a lot of different partners and the former DNR under the past administration was very involved in that," she said. "We are not involved in that anymore."


Raven said...

The rich can afford to relocate to safer places and build stronger shelters — windproof, rainproof, air-conditioned, even if need be raised on sturdy pillars to let incoming flood or tsunami waves rush harmlessly underneath (a “stilt home”) — and the poor or even middle-class cannot.

Rank, and richness, have their privileges.

BadgerBlueDude said...

But most of them have not built homes on stilts. They're so rich they can afford to let their homes wash away and build new homes. A few are so rich they could afford to build homes on Mars if they wished.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

Really good work, James. Also worth noting is that the Walker Administration is cutting $3 million from money set aside to help pay for disasters.

But they are willing to deal with disasters in another way- by giving a $14.6 million earmark to help build levies and flood walls that help his donors at Ashley Furniture. Cute, eh?

old baldy said...

Maybe it is some form of karma that Ashley Furniture was flooded. About 20-25 years ago they proposed an addition that would encroach into the floodplain. DNR was opposed for the obvious reasons. Good old boy Tommy Thompson intervened and forced DNR to approve the fill. Now they get flooded. What goes around, comes around, no ? If Ashley would have stayed out of that floodplain, and not filled wetlands with a subsequent project we may not be spending $14+ million to protect them from themselves.