If you know Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma then you know that he is a fierce climate change denier. As the leader of a kind of environmental birther movement, Inhofe has done his hardest work denying the thousands of scientists who have spent years researching the science of climatology.
In some kind of poetic justice this summer the good Senator has encountered a lot of evidence to the contrary. First he was was struck ill after swimming in a lake in his home state filled with algae. Algae caused by severe reduction in water quality.
"For the safety of our firefighters and our communities and the well-being of our crops and livestock, this state needs the current drought to come to an end. The power of prayer is a wonderful thing, and I would ask every Oklahoman to look to a greater power this weekend and ask for rain.” Fallin said.
This was after a legislative session where Republicans tried to decide if the state could afford to sell its water to Texas. It also comes at a time where Oklahoma Firefighters as well as other public safety workers are barely hanging onto their pensions with their fingernails while they're fighting those historic wildfires. And, let's not forget the insistence of Senator Coburn to incite a new Dust Bowl just so he can cut funding to the Department of Agriculture's Conservation Commissions.
Unfortunately the power of prayer and the denial of climate change didn't make any progress. Disasters went a step further in becoming what the Oklahoma Climatological Survey calls the hottest month ever anywhere in the United States. In a statement released by the OCS
"According to data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the statewide average temperature during July came in at 89.1 degrees, more than 7 degrees above normal. High temperatures alone were nearly 9 degrees above normal at 102.9 degrees. The National Climatic Data Center's statewide average for July stands at 88.9 degrees with data still being collected. Both values shattered the country’s previous record of 88.1 degrees held by another legendary hot month in Oklahoma, July 1954.
The extreme heat is being fueled by one of the worst short-term droughts in state history. The drought’s beginnings date back to August 2010 but intensified beginning in the fall under the influence of La Niña. That climate phenomenon, marked by cooler than normal water temperatures in the eastern equatorial pacific, often means drier weather for the southern United States. The statewide average precipitation total of 16.73 inches since October 1, 2010, is the driest on record at nearly 14 inches below normal. Parts of southwestern Oklahoma have seen less than 6 inches of rain over that 10-month period."
That means that even if there is rain, a few storms, some light showers a few days in a row, it is unlikely to reach the 14 inches needed just to reach "normal" levels of water.
According to climatologist Gary McManus who spoke to a group of leaders for the southwest region of Conservation Districts, there is no end in sight - only hope for the thousands of farmers and ranchers who are suffering the worst. The Climate Prediction Center estimates the drought will actually "intensify" all the way through the end of October and August will continue to be just as hot as July. The nightmare scenario is that another La Niña may develop and the central south might suffer the same dry fall and winter they did the previous year.
Sunday the OCS Mesonet reported the 86th day this year that a given city (Granfield, Oklahoma), had reached triple-digit temperatures. It ties the state's all time record of 86 days set by Hollis, Oklahoma in "the drought-fueled summer of 1956." A south western city - Altus, Oklahoma is also nearing the record with 84 days of 100 or above. The new record is expected to be set this week.
The leading insurer of farms in the state is Oklahoma Farm Bureau has seen record numbers of claims by farmers who had a rough spring with disastrous hail and severe weather while not bringing enough rain to stop the drought, and the fires that have raged all summer. No word on if there has been an evolution in Senator Inhofe's opinion on climate change or if Governor Fallin is willing to switch up the God she is praying to.
But global climate change doesn't exist. Ask Senator Jim Inhofe.