Extreme Weather Around the Globe
The World Weather Attribution Research Program, abbreviated WWAP, is a joint effort by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. The intent of both groups is to improve our knowledge of the attribution and understanding of terrestrial climate change. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences focused on attribution studies that focus on attribution to aerosols. In the study, the observations were made over a five year period where a substantial number of observations were taken from radiosondes. This research study did not directly attribute the changes in the atmosphere to climate change; however, the observations showed a significant upward trend in the concentration of aerosol sulfates relative to atmosphere.
While this was a rather interesting piece of research, and used relatively accurate observational data, it does not answer the question of why the concentration of aerosol sulfates in the atmosphere is increasing. For instance, there is a possible increase in the amount of heat trapped by clouds as the planet gets closer to its summer solstices. This increase in the temperature is caused by the absorption of infrared radiation emitted by clouds, and thus by the atmosphere at the earth’s surface. So, while the concentration of aerosol sulfates can be tied into the climate change, it is not the sole cause. Other causes should also be considered, such as the release of greenhouse gases, the addition of additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the changes in the composition of the land and ocean surface layers.
Another problem with relying too heavily on the predictions of the National Weather Service (NWS) is the likelihood of human error in attributing the changes in the global climate to climate change. How many times have we seen in the daily weather forecast or the weather maps online that there are streaks of red or pink in the midst of the clouds or sunspots? Is that really rain? How about that sudden change in wind speed and direction? There is always the chance of human error in weather forecasts, and although most people are confident enough in the forecasts they get, there are those who would still prefer to take a chance and be prepared for unexpected occurrences rather than blindly trust what the NWS says.
A third problem with relying too much on forecasts of the National Weather Service (or any other entity for that matter) is the predictability of precipitation. Precipitation is defined as the accumulation of water. While the precipitation is predictable on a day-to-day basis from rainfall, snowfall, and dew point, the accumulation of water may not be. Precipitation is a result of atmospheric conditions that are nearly every day the same. There are times when it rains, other times when it snows or may mildew, and there are times when it floods, causing massive flooding and potential damage to infrastructure in the area in which the storm occurs.
This brings us to another issue that is often ignored, which is the influence of surface temperature on precipitation. When it is cold outside and temperatures rise, there is a corresponding increase in the frequency of heavy rainfall. With this form of climate change, there is also an increase in the frequency of flash floods. Along with these precipitation cycles come the risks of flash flooding from heavy rainfall. There have been many extreme weather events in the United States already that are associated with changing precipitation patterns, such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Even without the full understanding of the connection between human activities and climate change, scientists know that it is occurring and worrying.
In conclusion, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently and that climate change is a real and present danger in the United States. Human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions, are contributing to the changes in the atmosphere and precipitation. Although scientists don’t know exactly what effect, global warming will have on precipitation and climatic conditions, they do agree that it is happening and the earlier that humans start adapting their actions to the changing world, the better. Next, follow me on Twitter for regular updates.