Extreme Weather On the Rise

December, 2016

Thanks to new data, research, and studies speaking to the veracity of global warming and human-induced climate change, some of the staunchest resisters are now coming to their senses and recognizing the very real issues our world faces in the coming decades. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for President-elect Donald Trump.Just last year, hurricane research conducted by Florida State geography professor Jim Elsner and Namyoung Kang, deputy director of the National Typhoon Center in South Korea was published in Nature Climate Change. The research found that warmer ocean temperatures – induced by manmade climate change—may be fueling stronger hurricanes.

Just last year, hurricane research conducted by Florida State geography professor Jim Elsner and Namyoung Kang, deputy director of the National Typhoon Center in South Korea was published in Nature Climate Change. The research found that warmer ocean temperatures – induced by manmade climate change—may be fueling stronger hurricanes.

“We’re seeing fewer hurricanes, but the ones we do see are more intense,” Elsner said. “When one comes, all hell can break loose.” After tracking Hurricane Matthew, which just struck Haiti, the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina – to name a few areas – we may have just gotten a firsthand picture of how strong these hurricanes can be.

Heat waves are also getting stronger and becoming more prolonged. In fact, we’re currently experiencing an unprecedented string of hot months—both locally and globally.

Month after month, we’re seeing records shattered for the hottest months in recorded history. Until there was a slight decline in October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recorded an unprecedented 16 straight months of record-setting temperatures.

“The run of record-setting months means 15 of the most abnormally warm months have occurred since March 2015,” says Brian Kahn of Climate Central. “There has never been a run of hot months like this in the 1,641 months (or 136-plus years) of data at NOAA’s disposal.”

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is projecting that 2016 will be the hottest year on record, and states that 16 of the 17 hottest years have occurred after the year 2000.

“The scary thing is that we are moving into an era where it will be a surprise when each new month or year isn’t one of the hottest on record,” says Chris Field, climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution.

Understanding the Link

For those unfamiliar with climate change and extreme weather patterns, it’s not always easy to identify the relationships and understand cause and effect, but the connections are becoming increasingly clear.

According to scientists and researchers, there are four major things that they look for when studying changes in extreme weather and climate events. They are frequency, intensity, duration, and timing.

“There have been changes in some types of extreme weather events in the United States over the last several decades, including more intense and frequent heat waves, less frequent and intense cold waves, and regional changes in floods, droughts, and wildfires,” the EPA notes. “This rise in extreme weather events fits a pattern you can expect with a warming planet.”

While the Southeast United States has been affected by more weather and climate related disasters than any other part of the country over the past 35-plus years, California catches the brunt of the force in the Pacific Northwest.

Putting Our Best Foot Forward

Currently, the EPA is taking a number of actions to deal with things like greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, but it’s ultimately up to individual citizens, small businesses, large corporations, and determined politicians to instigate real behavioral change on a city, state, national, and global level. Particularly since the President-elect has explicitly named dismantling the EPA as one of his top goals. He also intends to try to cancel the U.S.’s participation in the Paris Climate Agreements as well as other climate-forward legislation such as President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

While some have said we have 20-50 years to reverse course, others are now saying that we could see dramatic effects in less than five years. The time to take action is now, or else we can expect to see the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events increase in the months to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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