Summer 2012: This Is What Global Warming Looks Like

The extreme weather events of this American summer--horrendous wildfires, oppressive heat waves, devastating droughts--are precisely what global warming looks like, say climate scientists. 

What's the Latest Development?


Already this summer, the US has suffered extreme weather consistent with a future of rising temperatures due to global climate change, say scientists. "So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida." Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, said: "This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. ... This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about."

What's the Big Idea?

The connection between individual weather events and the larger trend of global warming is difficult to pinpoint, so scientists are careful not to draw oversimplified causal links. But data do show the US climate is warming: "Through most of last century, the U.S. used to set cold and hot records evenly, but in the first decade of this century America set two hot records for every cold one, said Jerry Meehl, a climate extreme expert at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This year the ratio is about 7 hot to 1 cold. Some computer models say that ratio will hit 20-to-1 by midcentury."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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