2011 has been a year of weather extremes: from wildfires in the Southwest to flooding through the Midwest and a deadly spring tornado season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tallied a dozen disastrous weather events in 2011 and costs are expected to exceed $50 billion. In comparison, a typical year in this country features three or four weather disasters whose costs average $1 billion each.
A primary question among the public and researchers alike is whether these climate extremes are being affected by human-induced climate change. And due to the political environment in the US and the federal budget crisis, these answers are proving hard to come by.
“Researchers have proven that the temperature of the earth’s surface is rising, and they are virtually certain that the human release of greenhouse gases, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels, is the major reason. For decades, they have predicted that this would lead to changes in the frequency of extreme weather events, and statistics show that has begun to happen.”
But researchers still need to do more rigorous analyses connecting extreme weather events to the human release of greenhouse gases – particularly in the case of tornadoes. As this point, scientists are lacking a strong basis for attributing increases in extreme weather to human activity, or for discounting a human effect.
The federal government, which tends to be the major source of financing and direction for climate and weather research, is essentially frozen on the subject of climate change – and research therefore also largely remains at an impasse.
“And so, as the weather becomes more erratic by the year, the public is left to wonder what is going on.”
For more information, visit NY Times Article, Harsh Political Reality Slows Climate Studies Despite Extreme Year