June 2013 LSAT, LR2, Q20, El Nino and forest fires

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project Guest blogger: Dave Yi

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Fact number 1: Large/intense fires hit the tropics in 1997.

Fact number 2: Unusually strong El Nino caused widespread drought, causing susceptiblity to fire.

Fact number 3: Some scientists believe air pollution caused El Nino to be super strong.

I am asked to find what “can be properly inferred”. In other words, I need to find what must be true based on the three facts above.

A. Nope. This could be true, but it is not a must be true. I don't know what was largely responsible for size and intensity of the fire. The air pollution could have caused the super strong El Nino, which in turn caused the drought, which made the tropics more susceptible to fire. But making the tropics susceptible to fire isn't the same as being largely responsible for the size and intensity of the fire. There could have been a number of other factors that were largely responsible instead.  A is gone.

B. I don't know what would have or could have happened if the El Nino in 1997 wasn't unusually strong. I can't conclude anything from that. B is gone.

C. Again, the correlation between the strength of the fire and the strength of El Nino is speculative; we don't know for certain that the super strong El Nino caused the super strong fire. C is gone.

D. This answer choice is committing “some scientists” to what they don't necessarily believe in. We know based on fact number 3 that some scientists believe that air pollution caused El Nino to be super strong, and that the super strong El Nino caused widespread drought. But once again (just as in A) this answer choice is attributing a causal connection between fire and air pollution, when no such causal connection exists. D is gone.

E. Answer E says that if air pollution enhanced El Nino, then we can infer (by combining this fact with another fact from the argument- "unusually strong El Nino caused widespread drought") that air pollution contributed to widespread drought by contributing to a super strong El Nino.  This is "properly inferred" so this is our answer.

Answer choice E is correct. This one was hard. It required slow and careful reading on my part.

From Dave: I'm the founder of LSAT Sensei, a boutique LSAT prep and tutoring company based in Chicago. I received my JD from the University of Chicago Law School, and I've been teaching the LSAT for a decade (and counting). I took the LSAT three times: 163, 174, and 180. I had to work my tail off to improve my LSAT score, so I completely embrace the the philosophy that succeeding on the LSAT is a journey. You can tweet me here.

I love how even after wrestling with it for ten years, the LSAT is still fun and intriguing. Back when I was studying to get into law school, my favorite thing about the LSAT was the Games (analytical reasoning) section. I was a natural at it, and I totally got huge ego boosts when I could crush the entire section in 15 minutes or less. But over the years, my favorite thing about the LSAT constantly changes - currently, I get a huge kick out of tearing apart the Logical Reasoning prompts/stimuli. The LSAT authors have a way of digging their own grave.

Please ask questions and/or suggest corrections to anything that seems confusing... we want to make this the best resource we can for LSAT students. We'll have all the June 2013 explanations up as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading. Tell your friends! --nathan

Crowdsourcing the June 2013 LSAT:  June 2013 LSAT Explanation Central | About this project