Extreme Weather: Will It Get Worse?

There are many people who may not believe the reality of climate change, and view extreme weather cases as merely the universe naturally working it’s weird ways. However the past few years have clearly marked the severity of the situation. The world is experiencing unprecedented warming at a faster pace than ever, seen through climate data from space, air, land and water.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration together with NASA announced that 2015 was the warmest year ever recorded of planet Earth. The data is not only larger than the numbers in 2014, but shockingly higher.

15 of the 16 warmest years in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 136 year climate record have occurred since 2000.  2015 is the 39th year in a row where global temperatures have been higher than the 20th-century average. In the past two decades, the temperature of the planet has skyrocketed six times, including 2015, 2014, 2010, 2005, 1998 and 1997.  Prior to these six events, the last year as hot as these dated all the way back to 1908.

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There are various factors that contribute to this data, proving both a frightening and continuously rapid increase of a warming world.

For one, ice is melting.  According to a survey by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, glaciers worldwide are decreasing at a rate ‘’without precedent’’ in the 21st century.  And at the same time, Arctic sea ice is also deteriorating significantly.  It varies per season, however since satellite measurements began observing in the 1970’s, the ice extent has gone down 10 to 15 percent per decade.

Antarctic sea ice extent, on the other hand has actually increased in the past few years, however it is most likely due to changing winds and is less sensitive to temperature than Arctic ice. The level of its decline is double the speed of its gains.

The sea level is also rising faster and faster, with glaciers and overland ice sheets breaking and warming oceans growing. According to NASA the sea level rise has increased to 3 millimeters per year, while 100 years ago was at 1 millimeter growth per year.

As the seas continue to expand, the high tides overload areas that were flooded previously only during large storms.   The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that this flooding has increased 300% to 925% in United States coastal areas since the 1960’s.

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Another significant contributing factor is that fresh water is warming.  The temperatures of lake water have risen at a highly increased rate, even more so than the temperatures of air and oceans since the 1980s. Over 60 scientists studied 235 lakes throughout 6 continents over 25 years in order to obtain these statistics in a NASA study.

When it comes down to the actual weather itself, the significant effects of climate change go beyond the air, ice and water. The magnitude of climate change has been seen in various cases of extreme weather throughout the globe.

Due to high carbon dioxide emissions, the planet’s weather works in highly varied conditions, as opposed to 50 or 100 years ago. In 2015, the carbon dioxide levels overthrew the threshold of 400 parts per million, which is over 40 percent more than pre-industrial levels.

Carbon dioxide and other man-made heat trapping gases are extremely powerful to the atmosphere, spreading large amounts of heat into weather systems and creating new extreme weather conditions. In 2015 alone, a series of unexpected weather events took even meteorologists by surprise.

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A town in Iran released a heat and humidity level a few summers ago so incredibly high that the measurement unit generally used to depict what this situation feel like could not be accurately calculated.

This extremity is worldwide. The Eastern Pacific’s Hurricane Patricia became the strongest hurricane ever in the Western Hemisphere, with winds as high as 200 mph, was fueled by record high warm waters. The North Pole as well was taken by a large hit of warm air coming from a massive storm near Iceland.  It pushed the temperature of the North Pole to above freezing, approximately 50 degrees above normal.  This storm could be traced back to the weather system that caused a deadly tornado near Dallas and urged record breaking temperatures along the East Coast.