News / USA

US Extreme Weather Consistent With Climate Change

Scientists say storms likely to become more frequent and intense

Residents of Joplin, Mo, walk west on 26th Street near Maiden Lane after a tornado hit the southwest Missouri city on Sunday evening, May 22, 2011. The tornado tore a path a mile wide and four miles long destroying homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Gul
Residents of Joplin, Mo, walk west on 26th Street near Maiden Lane after a tornado hit the southwest Missouri city on Sunday evening, May 22, 2011. The tornado tore a path a mile wide and four miles long destroying homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Gul

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

The powerful tornadoes and other extreme weather events that have cut swaths of destruction across the United States over the past month have prompted many to wonder if they are part of a new trend. Are these violent storms the result of climate change, or can they be explained as normal weather variations?

This has been a record year for tornadoes in the United States. North America seems to be especially hard hit.

"We have probably the most tornadoes when you think about the square mileage where we get them," says David Imy, operations chief at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, "and also the more intense tornadoes and the reasoning happens to be the Rocky Mountains."

Watch related Suzanne Presto video report

According to Imy, the Rocky Mountain range prevents moisture from the Gulf of Mexico from spreading westward and forces it to concentrate over the midsection of the country.

"Also it gives us dry air aloft that comes in and makes it more favorable for severe storms and tornadoes," says Imy, adding that the more than 200 tornadoes in the past month alone is an anomaly, "… compared to many other years that we’ve looked at. It’s hard to say that there is any trend in what we’re seeing this year. And so far we haven’t seen any differences in other parts of the world."

But does the record U.S. tornado season have anything to do with global climate change?

"It is almost impossible for us to pinpoint these specific events...and say they were caused by climate change," says William Chamedies, an atmospheric scientist and dean of the Nicolas School of the Environment at Duke University. "On the other hand we do know that because of climate change those kinds of events will very, very likely become more common, more frequent, more intense. So what we can say is that these kinds of events that we are seeing are consistent with climate change. "

Those ideas underscore the findings of a National Research Council Report commissioned by Congress and released earlier this month. Chamedies, vice chairman for the report, says it warns that global warming is real and that action needs to be taken to limit its magnitude and prepare for its impacts.

"And, we don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but we know that we face risks," he says. "What are we going to do to manage those risks in making decisions that will minimize the likelihood that certain impacts will occur and also providing a sort of resiliency so that we adjust to those impacts if and when they do occur."

Chamedies says the lesson from the destructive storms in the United States is that, no matter how sophisticated forecasting technology has become, the nation must find ways to reduce its vulnerability to extreme weather events, whether or not they’re caused by climate change.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More