Extreme weather is a phenomenon that has been seen more and more around the globe. Last week, for example, it was incredibly cold in the Midwestern region of the United States. In some US cities, it was colder than Antarctica (which seems really crazy, but consider that it’s summertime in Antarctica right now). Last week, it was also incredibly hot in Australia, so hot, that droughts and wildfires ensued. While we might want to attribute these weather patterns to a rare and freak one-time occurrence, this extreme weather is in fact a consequence of global warming. And it will get worse.
Extreme weather includes
Unexpected, unusual, unpredictable, severe or unseasonal weather; weather at the extremes of the historical distribution—the range that has been seen in the past.
In the United States, the Polar Vortex brought on an unexpected and severe weather pattern that wreaked havoc on the population. Schools and businesses closed, pipes and parts of Lake Michigan froze, and people died and hospitals were at full capacity in this cold and gusty weather. My mother texted me saying that in our hometown (which is a northwest suburb of Chicago) the news was saying it would only take four minutes to get frostbite. The windchill alone made the cold weather even worse.
The Polar Vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles. The term “vortex” refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles. During the summer, the vortex is felt less, but during the winter (and especially this winter) the vortex expanded and sent a jet stream of cold air south. Let it be known that the Polar Vortex is not something new–it’s been around and talked about for decades.
While the United States felt some of the coldest weather, Australia felt some of the hottest weather. The heatwave came during a time of drought, only making the effects of the drought even worse, especially for farmers. The intense heat melted roads, killed animals and fish, started wildfires, and broke records.
The city of Adelaide faced 116 F heat on January 24, which helped Australia set its record for the hottest recorded January in history. With temperatures so high, government officials issued health warnings to Australians to stay inside during the hottest parts of the day, stay hydrated, and minimize physical activity (at 105 F, the human body shuts down).
Despite these extreme weather cases, there are some people who still think that global warming does not exist. How preposterous! Let’s dive into the science behind these extreme weather cases to see why global warming is real and why it’s imperative to do something about it.
In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2019
To start, global warming refers to the long-term warming of the planet since the early 20th century, and most notably since the late 1970s, due to the increase in fossil fuel emissions since the Industrial Revolution. Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. Increased temperature trends and rising sea levels are both phenomena that are included in climate change.
There is incredibly strong evidence that relates human activities (burning fossil fuels, mostly) to increases in cases of extreme weather. Heatwaves and droughts are most commonly associated with global warming, which would make sense since it goes along with the whole “warming” idea. But winter storms have increased in frequency and severity since the 1950s, putting to shame those claims that global warming can’t exist if it’s getting colder. As the Earth warms, there’s more water evaporated, and that water call fall as rain or snow.
Extreme weather patterns, like heatwaves, droughts, floods, downpours, hurricanes, and winter storms, are becoming more and more frequent due to humans. With our emissions staying the same or even growing, scientists are sure that extreme weather like this will become the new norm.
We need to start taking action against our actions in order to prevent costly disasters that loom in the future.1
Also published on Medium.