Weather Updates

Weather this summer is ‘what global warming looks like’

Updated: August 5, 2012 6:20AM

If you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, take a look at the weather across the country in recent weeks.

Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho.

These are the kinds of extremes climate scientists have predicted will come with climate change, though it’s far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June.

Scientifically linking individual weather events to climate change takes intensive study, complicated math, computer models — and lots of time. Sometimes, it isn’t caused by global warming. Weather is always variable. Freakish things happen.

Europe, Asia and Africa aren’t having similar disasters now, though they’ve had their own extreme events in recent years.

Since at least 1988, climate scientists have warned that climate change would, in general, bring increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms. In the United States, those extremes are happening here and now.

So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the United States were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and, earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida.

“This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level,” said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. “The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire.”


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