Is Extreme Weather Related to Climate Change?

Wild weather, freakish weather, really hot, really cold, really rainy, really snowy. Seems to be happening more frequently these days. Is it because of climate change? Before we answer that question we have to clear something up. The difference between weather and climate. Weather is what’s happening in the atmosphere on a specific day in a specific location. Things like temperature, wind, precipitation. Climate is the general condition of the atmosphere over a much broader region over decades of time. Conditions such as warm or cold or wet or dry However it only takes a small change in the climate like a little global warming to create a big change in the weather. If the rainfall in New York and Boston is above average one year, we might just chalk it up to a normal fluctuation in the weather. But if rainfall stays above average for years on end then the climate is changing. In fact scientists have been warning us that the more climate changes the more likely we are to have extreme weather.

We’ve seen a lot of weird weather events with less than a 2º rise in global temperature Research says we can expect more of these events as the Earth gets hotter. We’ll see more tropical rains in dryer areas like tropical storm Irene in August 2011 which put Northeastern New York and Southern Vermont under water. Warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture so more moisture can precipitate out during a storm. We’ll see more prolonged heat waves and droughts like the ones that hit Texas in 2011. That was the states worst drought in history and the temperature hit 100º in Dallas on more than 60 days. We can expect long periods of spring time temperatures during the winter, like the extended warmth that hovered over the Eastern US in January 2012 and again in March. and ironically unusually cold and snowy conditions in winter too, like the snowmageddon that clobbered Washington DC in 2010 So that sums up our long range forecast: Change the climate and you change the weather. For Scientific American’s Instant Egghead I’m Mark Fischetti.