Thursday, January 24, 2013

2012: The Year of Extreme Weather


The weather reports are in. 2012 was the hottest and the most extreme year on record in many places.
While parts of China are enduring the harshest winter in 30 years, the Antarctic is warming at an alarming rate. In Australia, out-of-control bushfires are partially the result of record-breaking weather (new colors were added to weather forecast maps, to account for the new kind of heat). In the United States, where Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New Jersey and New York and where extreme drought still lingers in the Midwest, the average temperature in 2012 was more than a whole degree Fahrenheit (or 5/9 of a degree Celsius) higher than average – shattering the record.

On Friday a long-term weather forecast for the United States was released, when the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee published a draft of the third Climate Assessment Report. Like last year’s weather, the assessment does not pull its punches.
“Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water, and threats to mental health,” write the authors as part of their key findings.
Experts from 13 federal agencies, including NASA, the State Department and the Department of Defense put together the report under the auspices of the United States Global Change Research Program.

While some predictions have been adjusted upward from previous reports, the difference in tone in this newest assessment is striking. The second assessment, published in 2009, predicted thresholds that will be crossed, while the 2013 draft presents a reality in which some of the changes are already irreversible. Read More