If you've noticed a flood of news about severe weather this year, don't chalk it up to coincidence, the Rapture, or your overactive imagination. What we're seeing is climate change at work, according to research released by the Pew Center today. The paper, titled "Extreme Weather and Climate Change: Understanding the Link, Managing the Risk," lays out the science plainly. From the paper's introduction: "Is global warming causing more extreme weather? The short and simple answer is yes." As our world warms (in 2010, more nations reported record high temperatures than ever before), the planet is at higher risk for deadly heat waves, extreme precipitation, and flooding. So far, the weather this year does not bode well for the future—if temperatures continue to rise, these events will only become more common.
Is this new information? Sort of. Scientists who used to hesitate to link individual incidents of severe weather to climate change are now arguing it is risky—nay, dangerous—not to do just that, especially considering the increasing frequency. Understanding these weather events—vast flooding as close as North Dakota and as far away as Australia, a violent tornado season, wildfires of unprecendented scope and size in Texas—might be the key to protecting ourselves and future generations, write the paper's authors, Daniel G. Huber and Jay Gulledge. They wrote:
Individual weather events offer important lessons about social and economic vulnerabilities to climate change. Dismissing an individual event as happenstance because scientists did not link it individually to climate change fosters a dangerously passive attitude toward rising climate risk. The uncertainty about future weather conditions and the inability to attribute single events to global warming need not stand in the way of action to manage the rising risks associated with extreme weather.