Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tornados, Floods, Droughts...Oh My

A volunteer looks for survivors in the rubble of a home in Joplin, MO.
Source: The Independent

As an avid moviegoer, I’ve seen my fair share of disaster movies: good, bad and everywhere inbetween. What I’ve been lucky not too see are these scenarios enacted in real life. Before this year, I thought that if I stayed in the Northeast, the worst weather I’d experience is the yearly blizzard. Lately I’m thinking about stocking up on water and supplies before a regional weather disaster hits.

In the last six months, the United States has experienced town-leveling tornadoes in the mid-west and south; hurricanes in the east coast and gulf states; out-of-control wildfires in the southwest; intense drought throughout the mid and western part of the country; hail the size of baseballs in the Sunshine state; devastating flooding of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and what some have called “snowpocalypse” which blanked states coast-to-coast.

Off the Future Weather clock, I never gave much thought to the issue of climate change. That was before all of this disastrous weather. Lately I’ve had one question on my mind: is global warming responsible?

Climate has been the key word for years now, but climate is merely the long-term weather pattern. At what point will the climate of the future be the weather of today? Are these extreme storm patterns going to be the new norm? More importantly, is there anything we can do about it?

After some research, I found that I am not the only one with these questions; articles have been cropping up in outlets from the Huffington Post to The New Yorker. I had expected the scientific community to be full of data pointing to global warming as a cause. Instead, I discovered that research is still in its infancy and that scientists are working to detect the “fingerprint” of global warming in specific extreme weather events. Despite a lack of irrefutable evidence, research has shown that there is a connection. Even though many of these disasters are naturally occurring phenomena, their frequency and intensity has been increasing as a result of higher levels of greenhouse gases (global warming).

The National Research Council advises that we take action now to reduce the level of these greenhouse gases in order to manage the risk and uncertainties. They urge governments to enforce stricter regulations on corporations, companies to increase their commitment to environmental responsibility, and average citizens to raise their level of awareness. By managing the potential for crisis, we will be better prepared to adapt to climate change. Continuing on our current path will leave us more vulnerable to devastation in the future. It is better to face this problem now. After all, Noah built the ark before it started to rain.