News

    What's Behind All The Extreme Weather?

    Hurricanes, floods, and record heat. Is the recent spate of extreme weather conditions the result of climate change? As VOA's Rebecca Ward reports, the verdict is still out.

    Rebecca Ward

    It's been a long hot summer in the northern hemisphere.  And along with the heat has come some extreme weather - storms in the Atlantic and Pacific, flooding and forest fires. In Russia, Moscovites wrestled with weeks of record breaking heat, while fire fighters fought devastating wildfires.  Massive flooding in Pakistan continues to affect nearly 20 million people, with one-fifth of the country submerged at one point.

    You don't need to be a climatologist to know things aren't as they should be.

    "We're having our hottest year on record in a hundred and fifty years," says Jay Gulledge, senior scientist on global climate change at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.  "We know there's a long term warming trend that's been going on for the past century.  The largest warming has occurred in the last half-century." 

    Gulledge says no one weather event can be specifically linked to climate change.  But he says the trend indicates a relationship between weather and warming. 

    "If we put more heat in there, we will get more extreme weather, which means droughts, floods, hurricanes, etc.  If we put less in, then the problem will not be as bad." 

    James Carton at the University of Maryland agrees, noting that the latest studies indicate as global warming progresses, the world will likely see extreme hurricanes - categories three, four and five - becoming more frequent. 

    "The science behind that is quite simple," says Carton.  "Hurricanes draw their energy from the evaporation of surface temperatures from the ocean.  And as the ocean warms up, and the ocean has been warming up, you can expect more evaporation, therefore more intense hurricanes."

    But Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute warns against focussing on any one data set. 

    "I am looking at the accumulated energy cyclone index through August of 2010 and it is at its absolute lowest values since it was started to be taken in 1979, despite the fact that the planet is a few tenths of a degree warmer at its surface than it was.  So, how strong is this relationship?"

    More heat in the atmosphere is blamed on carbon emissions - the kind that results from burning coal, running automobiles and even switching on lightbulbs - pretty much any activity that takes some kind of energy.  The more greenhouse gases the world produces, the warmer it gets. But Patrick Michaels says fears surrounding the effects of climate change are overblown.

    "If you take a look at the actual rates of warming that are being observed and compare them to the median values produced by the United Nations computer models, you'll find that the observed rate of warming is at or near the low end of the ranges that are being predicted.  That should be pretty reassuring.  It should tell you that it's not the end of the world, that you have decades to figure what are you going to do about this, if anything."

    At the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, Professor James Carton has a different view, saying it isn't just the climate at risk because of too much carbon dioxide. 

    "As you increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, you increase the acidity of the ocean," he says.  "And that is also becoming a serious problem because as the ocean becomes more acidic, they affect the shells of many of our plankton."

    Carton says the best solution to a warming world would be to attack the problem directly.  The Pew Center's Jay Gulledge agrees.

    "At some point, my expertise is in the science, and at some point we're going to reach a level of impacts of climate change that is going to force behavorial change."

    You can watch all of Rebecca's "Going Green" reports on the environment by clicking here.

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.