An Extreme Weather Perspective for the Future

There is little doubt that much of the world has been experiencing extreme changes to “established” weather patterns. All predictions are that this will continue because of human contributions. The more people, the greater the environmental demands. More people simply consume more food and require more energy even if per capita consumption remained constant.

But just how extreme have these changes been and why should we be concerned? Our lifestyle patterns and impacts will not simply become our legacy but will become an indelible imprint for future generations. Yet, unlike the fossilized patterns of ancient plant and animal species, our mark will not be hidden beneath compressed layers of rock waiting to be exhumed. Our impact will be clearly visible to the environment we take for granted every day, just like the charred remains of forests and homes that are being consumed by the fires we see almost daily in the news.

These thoughts are nothing new. I have written about them numerous times. What is new is the accompanying articles that offer more focused attention on the scope of events we have been recently witnessing – and the implications of the impact from these events.

The first is a somewhat dated article from 2009. Yes, a lot can happen in four years to make “old” data seem irrelevant. You can judge that for yourself. In a news release from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) – Record High Temperatures Far Outpace Record Lows Across U.S., Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the Center, made this statement:

“”Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States…The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.

If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even. Instead, for the period from January 1, 2000, to September 30, 2009, the continental United States set 291,237 record highs and 142,420 record lows, as the country experienced unusually mild winter weather and intense summer heat waves.”

We must keep in mind that modern weather, record-keeping is a new science, not more than 120 years old. How, then can we be so confident that accurate future forecasting and predictability is achievable – even with the addition of the analysis of ancient ice cores and tree ring analyses? For me, I try to make this a very simple process. Not being part of the scientific community that is responsible for such activity, I remain unencumbered by the scientific correctness of my thoughts. I don’t care about cyclical weather patterns from 600,000 years ago. I am primarily concerned with my lifetime and the future of my immediate descendants. I know this sounds too parochial, but, if we don’t get things right – now, in our present, it won’t matter whether we were right or wrong in the analysis of the past or predictions for the future.

So, let’s stay present. The fact is, 2012 was one very, hot year. Climate Central is even more blunt: NOAA: 2012 Hottest & 2nd-Most Extreme Year On Record. The report was quite emphatic about the impact of this period.

“NOAA announced on Tuesday that 2012 as officially the warmest year on record in the contiguous 48 states…dating back to 1895. While not every state set a record, more than one-third (19 states) recorded their warmest years, and three-quarters of the lower 48 states recorded their first-, second-, or third-hottest years on record. Ninety-five percent — 46 states — had one of their top 10 warmest years ever recorded, and even in the coolest state, Washington, 2012 was warmer than 72 percent of the years on record.”

This trend was predicted in the 2009 NCAR Report. But predictions can be misleading. To see how the extreme pattern evolved, just click on the Extreme Weather Map 2012 to see just how bad things got as the year moved forward., a site from the Department of Energy also had some views about the impact of hotter seasons. In its report – Climate Change: Effects on Our Energy, some straightforward predictions are offered.

  • Climate change has created an increased risk of shutdowns at coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants. Why? Changes in the climate mean decreased water availability — which affects cooling at thermoelectric power plants, a requirement for operation.
  • There are also higher risks to energy infrastructure located along the coasts thanks to sea level rise, the increasing intensity of storms, and higher storm surge and flooding.
  • Power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems face increasing risks of physical damage from the hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more frequent and intense.
  • Air conditioning costs will rise due to increasing temperatures and heat waves, along with the risks of blackouts and brownouts in regions throughout the country.

These impacts are focused on our national energy infrastructure. Similar predictions can be made for the impact on agricultural productivity as well.

With these changes come cost. And the costs to respond to increasing threats and resulting damages will be staggering. This recent article in the New York Times: Climate Change Will Cause More Energy Breakdowns, U.S. Warns summarizes its views on the impending perils of climate change. We are already seeing these effects across the country and the world. These are the realities of living in the present and understanding what is occurring now.

““The cost today is measured in the billions. Over the coming decades, it will be in the trillions. You can’t just put your head in the sand anymore.”


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