Is This What Climate Change Looks Like?
Heat waves, wildfires, droughts, record breaking torrential rains and lethal flash floods competed in headlines these past few weeks as extreme weather hit several areas with unexpected intensity, taking its toll on infrastructure damage and loss of human lives.
News about the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia experiencing extreme weather rose in global headlines in recent weeks.
Russia’s Krasnodar suffered deadly flash floods after two month’s average rainfall fell in only a few hours during Friday night last week. President Vladimir Putin flew to the area and ordered investigations as to whether preparations had been sufficient to deal with the sudden floods. 144 people died in the event, many of them drowning in the flash flooding.
In the UK, torrential rains broke national records and caused deadly floods across the country. BBC News reports that according to the Met office, this year’s second quarter (April to June) was the wettest in UK history since 1910. Thousands of people lost electricity, schools were closed and transportation was affected in many areas. Rail services were disrupted as landslips and heavy floods damaged track beds and power lines. 175 flood alerts and 53 flood warnings were issued across the nation. BBC Weather credits the recent deluges to an accelerating part of the jet stream causing low pressure over the UK. The weather pattern is expected to last, causing concerns among already hard hit residents.
In the US, several regions were struck with heat waves, droughts, and raging wildfires as what were considered “unusual conditions” set records in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). According to an article in Science Daily, NOAA recorded in the past year the fourth-warmest winter on record as well as the warmest spring since 1895. April this year also ended as the warmest 12-month period in US history. As temperatures rose and drought struck in lower parts of the US, fears about another Dust Bowl were voiced by concerned farmers and agriculturists. A strong windstorm called derecho (from the Spanish word for “straight”) raced across from Chicago to Washington and left 13 dead. The derecho was preceded by triple digit temperature readings and had energy readings five times as those of usual thunderstorms. Massive wildfires consumed forests in Colorado, adding to extreme weather concerns. Wildfires in the US were recorded to have burned more than 2.1 million acres this year. Temperature readings in the US has reportedly set over 40,000 records in hot temperature but less than 6,000 cold temperature records since January 1, 2012. Such patterns in temperatures and weather are prompting people to consider or at least suspect global warming as the primary cause. Grist reports of top US officials making statements about climate change in recent weeks after extreme weather events. Grist also reported poll results showing that the American public’s acceptance of the problem of climate change is at its highest level since 2009.
Jerry Meehl, climate expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, stated in a Time interview that “This is what global warming is like, and we’ll see more of this as we go into the future.” In the same article Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, echoed what most climate scientists are probably thinking right now: It’s I-told-you-so time.
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