What's the Latest Development?
Hurricane Irene, currently expected to whip North Carolina with harsh winds and flooding, is but the latest extreme weather event of 2011, one of the worst years in American history for bad weather, say federal climate scientists. This year, Oklahoma suffered an 11 months drought and snow storms raged from Mexico to Canada, bringing Chicago to a standstill and killing 36 people. "Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say that extreme weather events have been more frequent since 1980."
What's the Big Idea?
This year has brought punishing blizzards, epic flooding, devastating drought and heat waves that boiled huge swaths of the country—and climatologists expect these weather patterns to be the new normal. In Oklahoma, so many new weather records have been set, federal climate scientist Gary McManus has trouble keeping track. "In addition to hundreds of deaths from cold and heat and tornadoes, the national economic toll for extreme weather so far this year is estimated at $35 billion, more than five times the average annual loss."