Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

How Climate Change Is Fueling Extreme Weather

Climate
Pixabay

By Emilie Karrick Surrusco

Across the globe, extreme weather is becoming the new normal.


Torrential rains and flooding. Record hurricanes. Destructive wildfires. Deadly heatwaves and drought. From season to season and year to year, weather events that were once rare occurrences are now increasingly commonplace.

Human activity is causing these rapid changes. When fossil fuels are burned for electricity, heat, and transportation, carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps solar radiation, is released into our atmosphere. Over the past century, massive increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have caused the temperature on our planet to rise.

That spike in global temperatures is fueling climate disasters that will only get worse unless we take action. Experts say we have just over a decade to avoid climate catastrophe. Read on to learn more—and find out what we're doing to help the planet change course.

Extreme Heat Gets Hotter 

As global temperatures rise, the hottest temperatures — and the number of areas impacted by extreme heat — are also rising. That means more scorching hot days in more places. Take the Texas cities of Austin and Houston, for example. Over the past 50 years, Austin has seen the number of days with temperatures above 100°F increase by one month, while Houston has recorded an additional month with temperatures above 95°F. Through 2100, scientists predict hotter temperatures and more frequent — and intense — heat waves in every region of the U.S., as explained by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Drought Conditions Persist 

Higher temperatures also lead to drier conditions. When global temperatures rise, moisture evaporates from both our planet's waterbodies and soil. Droughts in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world have become more severe — and lasted longer — thanks to climate change. In fact, the American West is currently in the midst of a "mega drought" that ranks among the worst in the past 1,200 years, according to a recent study by scientists at Columbia University's Earth Institute.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 38.4px; font: 17.0px Times; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; background-color: #ffffff} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}  Wildfires Burn Longer and Wider

Wildfires have always been a natural part of life in the western U.S. However, as this region grows hotter and drier, wildfires are growing in size, ferocity and speed. Fifteen of the 20 largest fires in California history have occurred since 2000 — and it's no coincidence that the state's hottest and driest years were in the same timeframe. The Camp Fire in 2018 — California's most destructive, and deadliest, wildfire in history — destroyed an average of one football field worth of land every three seconds and killed 68 people, according to Cal Fire. Scientists predict that the Camp Fire won't be record-setting for long.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 38.4px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; color: #0e0e0e; -webkit-text-stroke: #0e0e0e} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Warmer Temperatures Drive Increases in Precipitation

Warmer air increases evaporation, which means that our atmosphere contains an increasing amount of water vapor for storms to sweep up and turn into rain or snow. Just as drier areas are likely to get drier with rising global temperatures, those areas of the world that have historically trended toward heavy precipitation will only get wetter. In the contiguous United States, rainfall in 2018 broke records, with an average of 36.2 inches falling over a 12-month period – more than 6 inches above average.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 38.4px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; color: #0e0e0e; -webkit-text-stroke: #0e0e0e} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 38.4px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; color: #0e0e0e; -webkit-text-stroke: #0e0e0e; min-height: 29.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Sea Level Rise Causes Flooding

As the planet warms, ocean waters are also warming — and expanding. At the same time, warmer temperatures are causing land ice — think glaciers and ice caps — to melt, which is adding water to the world's oceans. As a result, average global sea level has increased eight inches in the last 150 years. Right now, the Atlantic coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico are experiencing some of the highest sea level rise in the world, which, combined with record rainfall, has led to catastrophic flooding.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 38.4px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; color: #0e0e0e; -webkit-text-stroke: #0e0e0e} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 38.4px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; color: #0e0e0e; -webkit-text-stroke: #0e0e0e; min-height: 29.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Hurricanes Are Becoming More Intense

Hurricanes draw their energy from warm ocean water, which means that hurricanes are just getting stronger. In the future, we can expect to see more hurricanes along the lines of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the islands of Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico in 2017. Officials estimated that 3,000 people died in the aftermath of this catastrophic storm that dropped nearly a quarter of the Puerto Rico's annual rainfall in one day and unleashed maximum sustained winds of 175 mph.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 38.4px; font: 24.0px Helvetica; color: #0e0e0e; -webkit-text-stroke: #0e0e0e} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} What Can We Do?

Americans across the political spectrum are feeling the urgency of our climate deadline and calling for action on a scale that matches the threat. People want a healthy environment and a thriving economy.

Unfortunately, fossil fuel companies are doing everything in their power to hold us back. They're intent on burning every last ounce of oil, coal, and gas — even if it means the planet burns, too. And the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to help them.

Earthjustice is leading the fight against the administration's environmental rollbacks in the courts — and we're winning. Over the past year, the court has ruled in our favor more than 80 percent of the time. These victories rein in lawless giveaways to industry and level the playing field for clean energy to outcompete fossil fuels.

This fight to preserve a livable planet touches everyone. Working together, we can do more to break free from fossil fuels and build a healthy, sustainable world for future generations. Together, we can lead systemic change in service of the earth and justice for its people.

To find out more about what we're doing to fight for a healthy planet, sign up for our newsletter.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A mostly empty 110 freeway toward downtown Los Angeles, California on April 28, 2020. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The shelter in place orders that brought clean skies to some of the world's most polluted cities and saw greenhouse gas emissions plummet were just a temporary relief that provided an illusory benefit to the long-term consequences of the climate crisis. According to new research, the COVID-19 lockdowns will have a "neglible" impact on global warming, as Newshub in New Zealand reported.

Read More Show Less
Centrosaurus apertus was a plant-eating, single-horned dinosaur that lived 76 to 77 million years ago. Sergey Krasovskiy / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images

Scientists have discovered and diagnosed the first instance of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, and they did so by using modern medical techniques. They published their results earlier this week in The Lancet Oncology.

Read More Show Less
Parks keep people happy in times of global crisis, economic shutdown and public anger. NPS

By Joe Roman and Taylor Ricketts

The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States is the deepest and longest period of malaise in a dozen years. Our colleagues at the University of Vermont have concluded this by analyzing posts on Twitter. The Vermont Complex Systems Center studies 50 million tweets a day, scoring the "happiness" of people's words to monitor the national mood. That mood today is at its lowest point since 2008 when they started this project.

Read More Show Less
The ubiquity of guns and bullets poses environmental risks. Contaminants in bullets include lead, copper, zinc, antimony and mercury. gorancakmazovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she will attempt to dismantle the National Rifle Association (NRA), arguing that years of corruption and mismanagement warrant the dissolution of the activist organization, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Bystanders watch the MV Wakashio bulk carrier from which oil is leaking near Blue Bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius, on August 6, 2020. Photo by Dev Ramkhelawon / L'Express Maurice / AFP / Getty Images

The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, renowned for its coral reefs, is facing an unprecedented ecological catastrophe after a tanker ran aground offshore and began leaking oil.

Read More Show Less
A mural honors the medics fighting COVID-19 in Australia, where cases are once again rising, taken on April 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Robert Cianflone / Getty Images

By Gianna-Carina Grün

While the first countries are easing their lockdowns, others are reporting more and more new cases every day. Data for the global picture shows the pandemic is far from over. DW has the latest statistics.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Hannah Watters wrote on Twitter that she was suspended for posting a video and photo of crowded hallways at her high school. hannah @ihateiceman

As the debate over how and if to safely reopen schools in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic continues, two student whistleblowers have been caught in the crosshairs.

Read More Show Less