When the recent series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey aired on Fox in 2014, Neil deGrasse Tyson likened climate change to a man walking his dog. The man represented the changing climate, while the dog represented the daily weather. A lot of people get caught up watching the dog and lose focus on the smaller, yet more impactful changes of the man. Even so, the man decides where that dog goes and where he doesn’t. It’s the same thing with our weather now. It’s being affected by climate change in a growing number of ways that most of us haven’t yet noticed because that man isn’t yet running–but soon enough he’ll be an Olympic athlete sprinting down the road.
Specifically, the more the climate changes, the more we experience various weather extremes such as longer lasting droughts in greater heat or larger, more frequent storms with harsh precipitation. Out of all the things we can record, the most obvious are record highs and lows. By the late 1970s, these records were becoming more and more frequent. Because of the growing number of hot summer days, there is less time for an overnight cool-off. Even during winter, the number of daily highs is increasing while the numbers of lows is decreasing.
Over the last century, precipitation has increased by about an inch per decade when averaged out over land masses. It should be noted that this is only an average, and other areas such as the southwestern United States have experienced greatly reduced precipitation instead. It’s also important to realize that a great deal of this precipitation is not gradual, or what you might expect in a city like Seattle, Washington. Instead, the increased precipitation is more like a Hammerfall, occurring in a single massive event. Not only are these events becoming more impactful, but the number of them is increasing at an ever-faster rate.
Over the past two decades, the number of tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean has seemingly increased. Because the way we record these events has changed over time, there is a possibility that the number of storms has actually stayed the same. Either way, the scope of each storm is related to sea surface temperature. The greater the temperature, the more dangerous the storm is able to get. The two most recent Category V hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, and part of a growing body of evidence toward the disastrous effects of climate change as it relates to weather patterns across the world. They’re the new normal and not scary exceptions. If you don’t want to be affected by climate change, then you can go live in Phoenix, Arizona.
Because these weather extremes regarding precipitation are becoming more common, so too are the consequences that join them. Flooding events are larger and more frequent than they once were.
Because the metaphorical dog walks so sporadically over a large period of time, people don’t recognize the direction in which it’s headed. The weather patterns over the past few decades are increasingly dangerous, but to either a child or parent, the patterns have changed too gradually to notice. These are instances of effects on weather by climate change in the United States of America. The worldwide effects are even more apparent when one has the chance to compare them side by side.