National Geographic Daily News
A man shovels snow in Portland, Maine.

Climate change has increased the likelihood of severe weather events such as storms, heat waves, and droughts.

Photograph by Greta Rybus, Sipa/AP

Jane J. Lee

National Geographic News

Published February 15, 2013

BOSTON—Wildfires. Droughts. Super storms.

As opposed to representing the unfortunate severe weather headlines of the last year, scientists said Friday that climate change has increased the likelihood of such events moving forward.

And though the misery is shared from one U.S. coast to another, scientists speaking at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston said, the type of extreme event may vary significantly from region to region. (Related: "6 Ways Climate Change Will Affect You.")

Heat waves have become more frequent across the United States, with western regions setting records for the number of such events in the 2000s, said Donald Wuebbles, a geoscientist with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

But the Midwest and Northeast have experienced a 45 percent and 74 percent increase, respectively, in the heaviest rainfalls those regions have seen since 1950.

The extreme drought that plagued Texas in 2011 has spread to New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico, said John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State's climatologist at Texas A&M University in College Station.

"The science is clear and convincing that climate change is happening and it's happening rapidly. There's no debate within the science community ... about the changes occurring in the Earth's climate and the fact that these changes are occurring in response to human activities," said Wuebbles.

In 2011 and 2012, major droughts, heat waves, severe storms, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires caused about $60 billion in damages each year, for a total of about $120 billion.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climactic Data Center, these were some of the costliest weather events in the country's history, said Wuebbles.

President Obama argued in his State of the Union address this week that the time is ripe to address climate change, saying he would skirt Congress to make such changes, if necessary.

His proposals included a system similar to the cap-and-trade proposal killed in Congress during his first term, new regulations for coal-burning power plants, and a promise to promote energy efficiency and R&D efforts into cleaner technologies. (Related: "Obama Pledges U.S. Action on Climate, With or Without Congress.")

The researchers said they are glad to see that addressing climate change is on the President's agenda. But they stressed that they wanted the public to have access to accurate, scientifically sound information, not just simplified talking points.

26 comments
Ben Guido
Ben Guido

I'm honestly hoping for a cooler climate.

Axel Siegler
Axel Siegler

In short: whatever pisses u off > it's due 2 the clmate change! Just like they where blaming the witches in former times for everything ....

Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson

Here's another thought for anyone who's interested:

People who rely on evidence that is highly variable, such as weather events, to make their case that action should be taken against greenhouse gas emissions are leaving themselves open to great disappointment when, due to normal variation in weather and cycles such as El Nino, we have a string of years with very little in the way of extreme weather. This will happen.

There's a lot of other, stronger evidence that points to the damage to our planet that is being caused by emissions from fossil fuels.Why focus on something that is so inherently hard to prove?

Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson

The media has gone overboard regarding the linkage between recent extreme weather events and greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. The fact is that weather is so highly variable and our observation period so relatively short that demonstrating a statistically valid correlation between these events and greenhouse gasses is not possible.

From a scientific perspective, extreme weather events can be expected to increase as a result of climate change. That is far different from statistical correlation. The media in their attempt to simplify things end up misrepresenting the science, to the delight of the deniar cult.

There is a huge body of scientific evidence that confirms the link between highly undesireable changes happening to our planet and emissions from burning of fossil fuels. But the case that these weather events are the result of greenhouse gasses is circumstantial; plausible, but circumstantial.

Paul M.
Paul M.

No, you all need to get up to date:

Get up to date:

Climate Blame believers still have pagers, PalmPilots and AOL accounts and look like the last fella ever to show up to the party still dressed in full Disco duds.

*Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets run by corporations.

*In all of the debates Obama hadn’t planned to mention climate change once.

*Obama had not mentioned the crisis in the last two State of the Unions addresses until now.

*Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.

*Canada’s voters had already killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially you fear mongers and the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

Meanwhile, the entire world of SCIENCE had condemned our kids to the greenhouse gas ovens of an exaggerated "crisis" and had allowed bank-funded and corporate-run “CARBON TRADING STOCK MARKETS” to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 27 years of insane attempts at climate CONTROL.

Don Ciesielski
Don Ciesielski

Got a question that I hope someone can help me with...What percentage of global warming is caused by man made activities and what percentage is due to natural occurrences? 

Jack Wolf
Jack Wolf

When I read about how we have experienced yet another record like today's drought report , or any of the many record breaking weather events of late, my heart sinks. And, they just keep on coming. That sick pit at the bottom of stomach just won't go away.

 And, I fear that if I don't do something, my punishment will be Al Gore haunting me in the afterlife. Forever and ever. Now, I just can't let that happen, can I? He's much too professorial to be much fun I’m sure, and when I die (most likely in a new record breaking beyond biblical climate event), I just want to have fun. So, no Al please, not that, anything but that.

As such, I have decided to attend the Climate Action on the National Mall this Sunday, the 17th at 11:30 AM by the Washington Memorial. I don't want to go, I have better things to do, but I must and so I shall. It is for all of our sakes, young and old at this point. And to get that Al out of my future dead head.

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@Gerald Wilhite The Global Warming Policy Foundation is biased.  From their webpage "The GWPF does not have an official or shared view about the science of global warming – although we are of course aware that this issue is not yet settled."  which is funny because ask any cliamte scientist and the issue is settled.

And your other source sites Dr Tim Ball, a geographer, not a climate scientist. http://drtimball.com/  If I have cancer I want the opinion of an oncologist, not a dermatologist.  A dermatologist also has an advaced degree and may be knowledgeable, but cancer is not his field, any more than Tim Ball is the most qualified source for climate change.

I could put up a website saying the moon is made of swiss cheese, and I could post pictures of craters that look like holes.  But I would hope that no one would seriously quote me, I am a chemist, not an astronomer or astrogeologist.

Chris Thomas Wakefield
Chris Thomas Wakefield

@Gerald Wilhite 
Hi Gerald, good links thanks. The question that would be on my mind, is what is the basis for the IPCC and why is there so much money spent on the G.W. Theory cum Climate Change boondoggle?

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@Jeff Chapin  The data your source is using has been cherry picked.  Climate change being blamed on CO2 from industrial revolution sources has only started up since 1900, but you source is using data back to 1840 and of the number of hurricane strikes on the US, not the number of hurricanes.  Similarly the number of violent tornadoes chart and the Wet Dry in the US.  If climate change is global, the data presented to deny or confirm must be global and not just one small sector of the earth.

How about a graph of temperature change when talking about a warming trend.  Poor science backed by poor data.

Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson

@Jeff Chapin wordpress is just a blog where anyone can say anything that fits their agenda. There is zero credibility. It's as meaningful as graffiti

Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson

@Jeff Chapin wordpress is nothing more than a right wing blog where anyone can say anything that fits their political agenda. It is certinaly not science, and has no credibility whatsoever. It is as meaningful as grafitti. Total waste of time. If you want to know what NOAA actually thinks about climate change, go to the NOAA website, not some right wing blogger's fantasy world.

Todd Brown
Todd Brown

@Don Ciesielski There are going to be natural variations year to year, events like volcanoes and massive forest fires have an effect, not that wikipedia is the best source but, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth%27s_atmosphere gives a fair baseline.  In recent history of the last million years 275-300 ppm seems to be the max for CO2, and right now the CO2 level is coming up to 400 ppm.  Just think about how much coal, natural gas and oil have been pumped out of the ground, this is old carbon that had been removed from the carbon cycle millions of years ago.  It is all been added to the atmosphere and the put back into circulation.  Read the entry, but remember most republicans don't believe and most democrats do believe.

Jose Ortiz
Jose Ortiz

@Don Ciesielski

 @Don Ciesielski


The real answer is outlined in IPCC 2007's report. But a better place can be found on Wikipedia - Radiative forcing . There are difficulties in translating radiative forcing into temperature change, but these difficulties to not throw the whole thing into question as much as some non-scientists will want to tell you (the other people who replied). Its about taking into account the limitations of your model when you say something with it, not using the existence of limitations to debase the authority of scientists.


Paul M.
Paul M.

@Don Ciesielski

Our effect on the powers of Nature and the powers of the cosmos are like passing gas in a tornado. We all want to feel special but making us out to be like immortal gods with powers to melt planets leaves us still being powerless mortals. “We must be doing something to the planet.” is superstition, not science.

27 more years of science only saying a crisis is “possible” instead of imminent was unsustainable.

John C.
John C.

@Don Ciesielski

Unknown at this point. The effect of ocean currents, solar activity, cloud physics are simply too poorly understood to make an educated calculation. But don't tell that to an AGW partisan unless you want a black eye.

Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson

@John C. You're right, John, the media has gone way overboard regarding the linkage between climate change and superstorm Sandy, the drought, and other weather events. The fact is that weather is so highly variable and our abservation period so relatively short that proving a statistically valid linkage between these events and GHGs in the atmosphere is just not possible. Of course all of the other evidence that greenhouse gasses are accelerating climate change still applies.

Paul M.
Paul M.

@John C. You can't have a little climate crisis so if its not a crisis, it's not real. Climate change was thankfully an exaggeration.

Paul M.
Paul M.

@Jack Wolf You don't have to believe in doomes day or feel responsible for climate variaiton now. Love the planet with love, not fear.

Chris Thomas Wakefield
Chris Thomas Wakefield

@Todd Brown@Gerald Wilhite
If your salary was paid by somebody who was pro-climate change (but why would you be pro on anything in science?), I'm sure you'd be very careful about how you expressed your opinion. Science is not independent from political, corporate or cultural mind sets.
There is a boondoggle of immense proportions going on with G.W. Theory: It was invented to cover for the effects of "Planet X" and the resulting pole-shift. (Earth's geographical axes displacement).

http://survivingthepoleshift.com/2012/12/19/anatomy-of-an-earth-poleshift-the-how-and-why/
My blog on the matter of the poleshift.

Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson

@Paul M. @Don Ciesielski look at the image of the earth at night, showing the bright lights of the cities. tell me people are irrlevant. How many naturally flowing rivers are there left? What percentage of the world's forests have not been cut down? How much as the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increased since the industrial revolution? How many fisheries are NOT under threat of devastation due to overfishing? It is idiotic to suggest that humans have no significant effect on our planet.

Chris Thomas Wakefield
Chris Thomas Wakefield

@Larry Wilson @Paul M. @Don Ciesielski
While I don't don't entirely agree with Don C. and neither yourself as to what you suggest, all be it with a broad brush, I submit that the Earth Change events we are seeing cannot point at the so-called climate Change.

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