Climate Change: Extreme Weather, Storms and Hurricanes
As we deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the United States, we are getting a glimpse into the extreme weather events that are being fueled by climate change. In an ironic twist, as Americans prepare to cast their votes for the next president, the subject of climate change was the one issue that both candidates avoided and side-stepped not only in the debates but throughout their run for the presidency,
Before Sandy hit landfall, President Obama addressed the nation about Hurricane Sandy calling the storm "big and dangerous", and I can't help but see the absolute irony of this whole situation. Climate change will not be ignored, and we need to be prepared in the coming years as extreme weather events will not only become the "norm", but will become the number #1 threat to national security and the number #1 threat to humanity as climate change continues to rear it's ugly head.
"In 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense presented to Congress its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. In the report, the Pentagon officially identified climate change as a national security threat. As a result, it will prepare contingency plans to deal with its consequences, such as droughts, floods, and violent storms that can lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease outbreaks, and mass migrations of displaced people—in our backyard and around the planet."
Strong language from the Pentagon: Climate Change is a National Security Threat
In 2011, there were 3,251 monthly weather records broken by extreme weather events that struck communities in the U.S.
Connecting the dots in climate change
As climate change reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, I have been "connecting" the dots between extreme weather, climate change, storms, tornadoes, hurricanes and other weird weather phenomena for several years now.
Climatologists, meteorologists and scientists have been instrumental in connecting the dots in climate change for more than a decade now. In a tragic play of events, because pressure has been so great to downplay climate change by big interest groups, some of these climate scientists have even received death threats.
In 2012 alone we have seen record fires, record drought, tornadoes and other extreme weather unfold before our very eyes. Hurricane Sandy is just one on the long list of extreme weather events that are causing Americans to stand up and take notice.
Recent polls have found that 70% of people now believe in climate change, and I would venture to say it's probably because of all the extreme weather events that have been affecting the globe.
It's getting harder to ignore climate change when it's right in your face, causing floods and loss of life and home.
“Many hurricane experts say the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico have begun to spin off more frequent and destructive hurricanes than in previous decades. Tropical storms have been on the rise since 1995, and a record 15 hurricanes made their way into the North Atlantic in 2005.”
In 2012, the U.S. had its hottest March since record keeping began back in 1895 - an astounding 671 records were broken, according to the National Weather Service.
April 2012 marked the end of the warmest 12 month stretch ever in the U.S.
Scientists tell us that our warming climate is causing more of these extreme weather events, and warn that if we don't seek solutions to climate change, it could get much, much worse.
Hurricane Sandy: "Storm of the Century?"
Hurricane Sandy has dominated the airwaves for the past several days, being described as "Frankenstorm" and ""The Storm of the Century."
Just hours after landfall, Hurricane Sandy has affected over 60 million people on the East Coast, caused widespread damage, deaths, power outages, and has virtually shut down the main transportation arteries in New York. As 3 weather events converged into one to turn this into an unprecedented storm, Americans now are faced with billions of dollars of damages to their homes, cars, businesses and property. Conservatively Sandy's damage is being estimated at over 3 billion dollars so far. Over 100 people have died (including victims in the Bahamas), and fires and floods have caused massive destruction to homes, subways and businesses.
And as I write this, the remnants of Hurricane Sandy continue to plow their way through several states on its way North - sure to wreak even more havoc, with up to 33 foot waves in the Great Lakes area, more wind, flooding, rain and even snow.
As for media hype, it's too bad that the issue that fueled Hurricane Sandy, climate change, is not getting the same media coverage that it's consequences are now getting.
I guess sometimes we have to be confronted with the consequences before addressing the source, huh?
Poll on climate change, extreme weather and hurricanes
Do you believe that climate change is causing these major storms and weather events?
More bad weather ahead
Although the damage from Hurricane is severe and unprecedented, a far worse scenario for the world is the release of catastrophic tons of methane gas from beneath the Arctic ice, a dire scenario which scientists and climatologists fear as climate change goes unchecked.
The Arctic ice, which melted to a record low this year, is in a dangerous decline and the Arctic is predicted to be ice free in just a 3 mere years, a situation that has never happened in the history of modern man. The "tipping point" in our climate can be reached when severe and radical changes occur on our planet, and a warming world can lead to abrupt or "runaway" climate change.
According to the Pentagon, climate change is the number #1 threat to national security, yet our candidates are not even talking about it. Instead what dominated the debates was who would drill for more oil and where.
As Hurricane Sandy's path of destruction begins to get cleaned up on the East Coast, perhaps climate change got its voice back, in the form of fierce winds, floods and devastation.
Extreme Weather Map
- Extreme Weather Map | NRDC
NRDC: 2011: Thousands of Weather Records Broken in the US, Costs Climbing – and Climate Change a Factor