Summer from Hell: Climate Change Makes Its Presence Known

The summer of 2012 has come to a close, but it won’t be forgotten anytime soon. It delivered one extreme weather event after another, from heat waves to freak storms, wildfires to drought. People lost their homes and livelihoods, yet even as they try to pick up the pieces, more powerful weather systems are looming on the horizon.

Extreme weather is a hallmark of climate change. Scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other leading groups confirm that climate change is contributing to the frequency and power of 2012’s weather events. Climate change creates stronger storms, including hurricanes like Isaac, and more potent heat and drought.

Climate change used to seem remote to many people. But this summer, we just had to look out the window or turn on the Weather Channel to see what global warming is doing to our communities.

It started with extreme heat. Rising temperatures made June the smoggiest month in five years—making it hard for people with asthma and other respiratory problems to breathe. As many as 131 million Americans were under some form of heat advisory as temperatures spiked in communities from Brownsville to New York. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that July was the hottest month since record keeping began nearly 120 years ago. It was hotter even than the previous high during the Dust Bowl.

The heat fueled one of the worst droughts in more than 50 years.  The National Weather Service’s Drought Monitor said more than half the country was suffering from drought conditions and nearly 1,300 counties have been designated disaster areas as a result.



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