QUESTION TEXT: Climatologist: Over the coming century, winter …
QUESTION TYPE: Strengthen
CONCLUSION: The mountain snowpack in the Rockies will probably melt earlier, which will cause greater floods and less water for summer.
REASONING: Global warming will probably increase winter temperatures in the Rockies. This will cause more precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow.
ANALYSIS: This is actually a pretty good argument. Why does it need strengthening? Because the conclusion is probabilistic. Further evidence will help prove the probability correct.
As for why the argument is pretty good, it has to do with the relevant authority of the climatologist. I’ve written a note on the next page about this. You do not need to know about the note to get 175+, but you may find the information interesting nonetheless.
- This answer does show there will be more rain, since the stimulus says more precipitation falls as rain. But this doesn't prove the conclusion. The problem with the argument is that we don't know if rain will actually melt the snowpack. The argument just assumes it does. Merely adding more rain doesn't help prove the point.
- CORRECT. The situation in this answer matches the stimulus exactly. So it strengthens the conclusion. The cause is leading to the effect in other mountain regions, so we can expect the same to be true in the Rockies.
- This could be true, but how does it strengthen the argument? The argument was talking about the entire Rocky Mountain region, and the effect global warming would have.
This answer talks about specific, milder regions within the Rockies. That doesn’t necessarily tell us what global warming will do. Those mild regions have had thousands of years to adapt, while global warming is happening very fast.
- This isn’t even talking about mountains. Irrelevant. Mountain regions could diverge completely from the average.
- The stimulus didn’t talk about larger snowpacks. Global warming makes snowpacks melt faster, but they may not be larger.
Note on Relevant Authority on the LSAT
The speaker is a “climatologist” instead of a “politician” or an “environmentalist”. The LSAT has previously used relevant expertise to allow an author to speak from authority. The issue isn’t strictly relevant to answering this question, but make sure you note who’s speaking on LR questions.
This is a strengthen question, which usually indicates a flawed argument. But given the authority of the speaker, this may actually be a good argument. The fact that the speaker is a climatologist certainly makes the argument more compelling than it otherwise would be. We can assume a climatologist has relevant expertise and is correct when they say that winter temperatures will rise in the rockies, and that more precipitation will fall as rain.
We can also believe the speaker when they say this means that the mountain snowpack will probably melt earlier, and cause flooding, etc. So why does this argument need strengthening at all? Because it says “probably”. Probably is a weak statement – it indicates the climatologist isn’t certain in their conclusion. Supporting evidence is always useful for a probabilistic conclusion, no matter the authority of the speaker.
A second anecdote to demonstrate that the identity of a speaker can be relevant: I once challenged question 25, section 3 of LSAT Preptest 64. I received a thorough reply, which included this quote “In the context of journalism, it is a reasonable application of the “principle of charity” in argument interpretation to presume that the information provided by the journalist constitutes a relatively complete picture of the relevant facts.” In other words, the fact that the speaker was a journalist had a small role to play in the question.
It’s possible to overthink these things. I got question 25, section 3 of LSAT Preptest 64 right, very fast. The answer was obvious. It was only when a student questioned me that I noticed a potential flaw. In 99.9% of cases you’ll never need to consider relevant expertise. But know that the speaker’s identity is explicitly part of LSAT questions.
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