Climate change does more than just affect temperature; it creates a new set of environmental circumstances that have never been experienced by humans before. Just a matter of a few degrees difference is enough to set new weather patterns into motion. Flash flooding, hurricanes, and unusual storms are all popping up across the United States (and the planet as a whole), earning the aptly named title of extreme weather.
It isn't completely unheard of for unusual storms to strike at certain times of the year. Record high heat waves during the summer, or unexpected snow storms in early spring are all relatively normal occurrences that aren't cause for concern. What is alarming, however, is the sustained pattern of a warming planet over the last 50 years.
We've seen everything from heavy downpours to flooding to droughts. Across our planet, weather is increasingly unpredictable, with climate change as a suspected cause and effect. In order to understand climate change's hold on our weather patterns, let's break it down:
Weather Patterns: Discerning Between Normal and Extreme Weather
First of all, it's worth noting that climate change hasn't brought about a new type of storm or weather condition; it's just intensified what we already experience. Tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods and so on are not new phenomena. We have experienced virtually every pattern of weather before at one time or another across our planet, just not this extreme.
The main concern then is what climate change is doing to enhance these weather patterns. Basically, the warming atmosphere creates an environment that is able to conduct weather patterns outside of what would typically occur in that region. For example, a region may be prone to hurricanes every now and then, due to its location and humidity levels. Now that climate changes have taken hold, the circumstances change, increasing the severity of a typical storm. Instead of a hurricane that barely manifests off the shore, people are faced with the threat of a storm that has the ability to wipe out a whole town.
The warming pattern of the planet is creating more severe versions of typical storms
What's Causing It?
When it comes to the extreme weather that our planet is experiencing, there really isn't a clear-cut reason behind it. All of the continents across the world have very distinct differences in climate and weather patterns. To trace everything back to a single cause isn't a likely or feasible possibility.
We already know that the planet is warming. Increased burning of fossil fuels and disregard for its environmental effects are causing temperature increases over time. And although the records show an increase of only about 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit), the change is enough to throw off the planet's balance.
However, not everyone is in agreement as to climate change being the cause of extreme weather. A recent report from Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, suggests that extreme weather has nothing to do with climate change. After studying decades of extreme weather instances, McKitrick claims that there isn't a conclusive data trend. Some years have sporadic and unusual storms, but they aren't happening for the first time in history, nor are they in a sustained upward pattern. That being said, McKitrick believes that climate change is being held responsible as a method for political and rhetorical purposes.
Either way, extreme weather is a serious safety and economic threat. Countless lives are lost in the wreckage from floods and extreme hurricanes. Resources such as food and safe drinking water become scarce for those who find their homes in the wake of the storms. Once the extreme weather passes, people are faced with the destruction of their homes, with enormous economic burdens for repair and rebuilds.
Extreme weather is causing catastrophic damages for homeowners and entire towns alike
Should We Be Worried?
The short answer: It depends. For people along coastlines or in areas where humidity and heat run high, there is an increased risk for danger. Depending on regular climate patterns, the increase in temperatures may or may not lead to more severe storms, higher winds, and downpours.
Many different parts of the world recognize their increased risk and are tackling the problem with preparation. For example, new infrastructure is taking into account the possibility of extreme weather circumstances when they are designing a new build. Stronger resilience to high temperatures and precipitation levels are just a few of the many measures taken to strengthen cities and homes alike.
Whether climate change is to blame for the extreme weather situations or not, the phenomenon is creating awareness of the irreversible effects of our fossil fuel consumption. Just a few years ago, most of the population was skeptical that climate change was even a real possibility. Even today, as we experience unusual events such as extreme weather, people argue that it's just part of nature's pattern; It will come and go.
On the other hand, there's the stance that this is a man-made problem. All of our wasted fuels and resources have polluted the air. We've essentially poisoned nature, and now we're paying for it. Similarly to the phenomena of acid rain, the climate and pollution relationship is unfolding in ways that are destroying the ecosystem slowly but surely.
Putting cause aside, we have to deal with the effect. At the end of the day, we should try and understand the cause of the new weather we're experiencing. But, we also need to take the time right now to help those who have had the first-hand experience of these massive tornadoes and life-destroying hurricanes. Whether you believe in climate change or not, there are people suffering across our country, and across the world. It's time that we step up and help each other. If we don't, who will?