Climate Change Weather: How Climate Change is Affecting Extreme Weather Events

Extreme weather has been becoming more of a normality all over the world. It is time to address the situation. Looking at weather like hurricanes, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms; the effects that climate change is having on the earth may be affecting the weather itself. Climate change weather is real and if we do not do something to combat the ever increasing temperature of the earth, storms and other extreme weather, will become a constant threat to our way of living. Let’s take a closer look.

Climate Change Weather

In the early 2000s, with climate change research becoming more popular, a new field of study arose. This field of climate science, explores the possibility of the effects of human activities on the weather. More specifically, extreme weather like floods, heatwaves, droughts, and severe storms.

This field of study not only gained momentum in the science world, but also in the media and public thoughts. It is easy to see why. Anyone who even knows a little about climate change and the pollution that is happening all over the world, can easily link our activities to extreme weather. In the United States, winters have been getting warmer, there have been an increase in droughts, and even right now, we are facing 3 hurricanes after just getting past one devastating event in Texas.

This field of study is known as “extreme event attribution”. Scientists have published more than 140 studies looking at the weather events around of the world, from Typhoon Haiyan to the California Drought. The result of these studies? Mounting evidence that human activity is raising the probability and strength of some types of extreme weather.

Extreme Weather

Climate change weather is the effect that human activities have on the changes of weather patterns. Changes in extreme weather and climate events, such as heatwaves and droughts, are the most notable way that many people experience climate change. Man made climate change has already increased the number and strength of some of these extreme weather events. Over the last few decades, much of the United States has seen an increase in prolonged periods of high temperatures, heavy rain, and in some areas, flood and droughts.

Hurricanes

First up that we are going to talk about in climate change weather is hurricanes. The world is seeing the effects that climate change has on the weather right now. So far, we have already seen 3 atlantic hurricanes and are currently experiencing 3 more. Jose, Katia, and Irma. Katia is a category 2 hurricane heading for Veracruz, Mexico. Irma, as of 4:30 on September 8th, is a category 4 hurricane that has already done major damage to some Caribbean islands and is heading for Florida. Irma is followed closely by Jose, which is also a category 4 as of the same date and time, and heading the same path as Irma. However, Jose is predicted to veer east once it gets close to Puerto Rico.

climate change weather

Hurricanes and Climate Change Weather

There has been a large increase in most measures of Atlantic hurricane activity since the early 1980s. These measures include the intensity, frequency, duration, and strength. The recent increases in activity are linked, partly, to increased sea surface temperatures in the regions that these specific hurricanes form and move through. 

This is because hurricanes form over warm waters. Since 1970, the tropical ocean sea surface temperature worldwide has risen by about an average of 0.5 degrees Celsius. Warming in the North Atlantic ocean has been even more, 0.7 degrees Celsius. In addition, the sea levels are also rising. Since 1880, the sea has risen roughly 8 inches and it is predicted that it will continue to rise. This can cause stronger storm surges created by hurricanes making landfall.

In terms of strength, hurricanes have been growing, almost, continuously stronger since the 1980s. The prediction for future hurricanes is substantial. A doubling or more in the frequency of category 4 and 5 hurricanes by the end of the century. The western North Atlantic will most likely experience the largest increase. With the continuation of global warming, sea levels are likely to rise by 1-4 feet globally by the end of the century which will cause stronger storm surges.

Heat Waves

Next up in climate change weather are heat waves. These are periods of unusually hot weather that can last from days to weeks or more. Like hurricanes, the number of heat waves has been increasing in recent years. In 2011 and 2012, the number of intense heat waves was almost triple the long-term average. The heat waves and droughts in Texas and the Midwest during those years, set records for the highest monthly average temperatures.

Drought

Coupled with heat waves, often comes droughts. The higher temperatures leads to increased rates of evaporation, including more loss of moisture through plant leaves. In in areas where rainfall does not decrease, the increase of surface evaporation and the decrease in water in plants leads to the soil drying out much faster than normal. Thus the normal rainfall is not enough to counteract these effects. When the soil dries out, the incoming heat from the summer sun goes into heating the ground and the air, rather than its regular duties which is evaporating the moisture in the air. This leads to hotter summers and drier environments.

An example of this is many droughts that happened in 2011 in texas and Oklahoma that experienced more than 100 days of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Both states set new records for the hottest summers since 1895.

Floods

Flooding is another type of climate change weather. Flooding is defined as any high flow, overflow, or inundation by water that causes or threatens damage. They are causes or increased by both weather and human factors. Weather factors include heavy rainfall, snowmelt, thunderstorms, storm surges from hurricanes, and ice or debris jams. Whereas human factors include structural failures of dams and levees, altered drainage, and land cover alterations like pavement.

Human activity is creating more dangerous flooding due to the warming of the atmosphere. This causes the ice caps to melt which in turn leads to the rising of the sea level. This can lead to more severe storm surges during hurricanes, as well as coastal flooding.

Looking at the data of this type of climate change weather, worldwide, from 1980 to 1009, floods causes more than 500,000 deaths and affected more than 2.8 billion people. In the U.S., floods have caused 4,586 deaths from 1959 to 2005, while property and crop damage averaged almost 8 billion dollars per year. The risks of floods in the future are increasing every day. This is due to expanded development in coastal areas, unabated urbanization, land use changes, and human induced climate change.

climate change weather

Types of Floods

  • Flash floods are when short but intense rainfall, failures in dams or levees, or the collapse of debris or ice jams causes immense and sudden flooding in a specific area. Most flood related deaths are due to flash floods because there is no way to prepare properly for them.
  • Urban Flooding is caused by short but heavy rainfall. Due to the way cities are built, intense and sudden rainfall can exceed the capacity of storm drains and increase immediate runoff, causing flooding.
  • River Flooding is when surface water drained from a watershed into a stream or river exceeds the channel’s capacity and overflows onto the banks and surrounding areas.
  • Coastal flooding is one many people are familiar with. This happens a lot during storm surges brought on by strong hurricanes. These types of floods can cause death, widespread structural damage, severe beach erosion and a lot more.

Increased Rain and Snowfall

It is true, global warming is a bit misleading and it is the reason many dismiss it by saying things like, “we have had many cold winters and heavy snowfalls.” It is true, however global warming implies that because the Earth’s atmosphere is warming, there is more moisture in the air, which means more precipitation of all kinds. Global warming or climate change does not completely change the weather patterns, rather it alters them. Making them, in most cases, stronger. Hurricanes, thunderstorms, blizzards, etc.

In fact, the amount of rain and snow falling during storms has risen nearly 20% on average in the United States. This is nearly 3 times the rate of increase in total precipitation between 1958 and 2007. Basically, the heaviest storms have recently become actually heavier. The northeast has seen a 74% increase in the amount of rain and snowfall in the heaviest of the storms that have occurred.

This is one of the weather related consequences of global warming. The increase in both ocean evaporation and the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can actually contain. This increase in water vapor can create conditions which favor heavier precipitation in the form of intense rain and snow storms.

How Do We Know Humans Are The Cause?

So how exactly do we know that humans are at the center of these extreme weather events becoming more extreme? Look at the data all around you about climate change weather. Over the past 30 years, there has been a pattern of increasingly higher average temperatures all over the world. In fact, the first decade of this century, that would be 2001-2010, was the hottest decade recorded since the records began back in the 1800s. This is mainly caused by the increase of heat trapping emissions in the atmosphere which happens when we burn fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas.

Scientists have developed a simulation which analyzes the climate data of the last 50 years. If human influences are removed from the simulation of the last century, the results show that Earth’s average temperature would have actually cooled slightly over the last 50 years. When the human influence is added to the simulations, the results show the increase in temperature.

More evidence comes from “fingerprint” studies. The observed pattern of warming at the Earth’s surface and cooling in the upper atmosphere is exactly what you would expect to see from an increase in heat trapping gases. If the warming would have been caused by the sun’s heat alone (as many suggest) the atmosphere would have warmed throughout, rather than in a specific area.

Climate Change Weather Effects

What are the supposed effects of climate change weather one might ask. Well, that is quite obvious, don’t you think? With an increase in extreme weather events, like hurricanes which bring intense flooding, there will of course result in more life lost, economical losses and much more. The rising sea levels (1-4 feet by 2100) will threaten greater coastal flooding and stronger storm surges during hurricanes.

That is not all. Changes in weather could affect agriculture all around the world. Certain crops that favor a certain type of climate, like wheat and rice in warm climates, could not survive if the climate changes to a cooler one. Or vice versa for crops that thrive in cooler climates. This will have an effect on countries that rely much on farming and agriculture, for example Brazil, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

As climate change continues to worsen, the weather of our everyday lives will change as well. More storms and stronger storms, normal temperatures will fluctuate more. These events will have effects not only on us, humans, but also on the world as a whole. Plants and animals will be affected because their ecosystems are changing drastically and the cycles are getting thrown off balance.

climate change weather

Summing Up

So to wrap up climate change weather in a language that everyone can understand. The probable future that global warming has in store for us and the world is as follows. Temperatures will continue to rise; precipitation patterns will change more, meaning more (or less) rainfall over some regions, which will result in increased flooding and also drought (again in some regions); hurricanes will become more frequent and stronger all around, looking at the fact that there have been increasing since the early 1980s; sea levels will continue to rise resulting in increased flooding, stronger storm surges, and loss of land due to both erosion and waters coming further inland; Arctic is likely to become ice-free before the mid-century.

If we do not start to pay attention to climate change, we are in for a rude awakening that will shake the foundations of Limbaugh himself. Look into renewable resources, green energy practices, and do your best to lower your carbon footprint. You will find that reducing global warming is almost as easy as creating it.

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Patrick Sands
 

Hey, I'm Pat. I am a Millersville grad with a Bachelors of Arts in English. I love to write, play video games, watch movies and TV, basically be a total nerd whenever I can. Green and Growing is important to me because it allows me to help others be as green and eco-friendly as possible. With Climate Change being what it is, it is even more important for people to get educated about their environment. This website allows me to do my part in that. Also, I'm a huge goof who tries to add some humor into anything I write. Stay Excellent out there!

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