1.2 million acres have burned, tens of thousands were left homeless, hundreds dead due to freak tornadoes and the Southwest is running out of water while the Mississippi breaches its banks. What is to blame?
Why are weather forecasts (that were once at least somewhat accurate) now hopeless? These questions may not have easy answers, but the issues surrounding them deserve our nation’s full attention. One explanation is that climate change is affecting extreme weather events.
Climate Communication, a non-profit science and outreach project made up of scientists across the globe, says:
All weather events are now influenced by climate change because all weather now develops in a different environment than before. While natural variability continues to play a key role in extreme weather, climate change has shifted the odds and changed the natural limits, making certain types of extreme weather more frequent and more intense. The kinds of extreme weather events that would be expected to occur more often in a warming world are indeed increasing.
“Extreme events are a manifestation of climate change,” according to Thomas Karl, Director of the U.S. Climatic Data Center and lead author of a 2008 report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which showed that extreme weather events linked to climate change are happening right now in the United States.
Karl added this in a March 2010 broadcast for EarthSky, “We may be fine for many years, and all of a sudden, one particular season, one particular year, the extremes are far worse than we’ve ever seen before.”
Over the last 50 years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that the number of natural disasters in the U.S. has more than QUADRUPLED. And, according to the insurance giant MunichRe, since 1980, the total economic losses attributed to natural disasters has more than TRIPLED.
(Credit- Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Here in the Lone Star state, researchers from Texas A&M University said, “The months-long Texas drought is sapping the record books bone dry and is racking up dire statistics that have never been reached since reliable record-keeping was started 116 years ago.” This is exactly the kind of abrupt change Karl predicted.
Joplin, Tuscaloosa, the Wallow Fire, the flooding Mississippi, droughts and wildfires across Texas: these events have caused us all pause in the past year.
Earlier this year, we asked our supporters to share stories of the extreme weather they have experienced in 2011; more than 2,200 individuals sent in stories that include a variety of extremes – from heat, to blizzards, to floods, to drought. These stories inspired our 2011 Extreme Weather Video and our Postcards from the Edge. We also created the “Yes, I’m Worried” petition to share with our leaders in Washington who are unwilling or unable to take the climate crisis seriously.
We saw what happened with DDT. Many ignored the concerns for years, said there must be other explanations. As they did, people got sick, bird populations dwindled and the problem grew larger. Debate is good, questions are good, but actively ignoring sound science and the inescapable power of nature is irresponsible.
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