Atmospheric Scientist here at Weather Underground, with serious nerd love for tropical cyclones and climate change. Twitter: @WunderAngela
By: Angela Fritz , 8:16 PM GMT on October 10, 2012
A report from the Yale Project on Climate Change and Communication shows that the impacts of extreme weather and climate change are weighing heavily on the minds of Americans, especially after this year of extreme weather, drought, and heatwaves. The project conducted interviews with 1,061 adults. The results show that more Americans now attribute worsening weather to climate change than in the Spring of this year, or in 2011.
Results from the question, "How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements? '…Global warming is affecting weather in the United States.'" Responses shown are "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree." Results from the Fall 2012 poll are in red, and results from the Spring 2012 poll are in blue.
The project reports the following results:
• A large and growing majority of Americans (74%, up 5 points since the project's last national survey in March 2012) say “global warming is affecting weather in the United States.”
• Asked about 6 recent extreme weather events in the United States, majorities say global warming made each event “worse.” Americans were most likely to connect global warming to the record high temperatures in the summer of 2012 (73%).
• Americans increasingly say weather in the U.S. has been getting worse over the past several years (61%, up 9% since March).
• A majority of Americans (58%) say that heat waves have become more common in their local area over the past few decades, up 5 points since March, with especially large increases in the Northeast and Midwest (+12 and +15, respectively).
• One in five Americans (20%) says they suffered harm to their health, property, and/or finances from an extreme heat wave in the past year, a 6 point increase since March. In addition, 15% say they suffered harm from a drought in the past year, up 4 points.
Results from the question, "Some people say that global warming made each of the following events worse. How much do you agree or disagree?" Responses range from "strongly agree" in dark red to "strongly disagree" in dark blue.
Asked about these six extreme weather events, the majority of respondents said that global warming made the events "worse." They were least likely to associate the derecho in June 2012 to global warming. While heat waves and drought seem to be easily linked to global warming, it's harder for people to draw a line between a warmer atmosphere and events like a strong derecho. The June 2012 derecho tracked from Chicago to Washington D.C. and also made a strong appearance in the Twitterverse. The storm killed 26 people, left 3.5 million people without power for days, and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The amount of energy available to the storm (in the form of heat and moisture) was very high—our Weather Historian Christopher C. Burt pointed out that the number of heat-related records set around the time and location of the derecho were "extraordinary." It's likely that global warming did play a role in the intensity of the derecho. How much of a role is hard to determine. Jason Samenow from the Capital Weather Gang posed this question to Harold Brooks, a scientist at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory. Brooks's response to the question of whether there was a climate change role in the derecho: "Not to a particularly significant extent. The hot surface temperatures and high lapse rates aloft directly contributed. I’m not sure how much of either of those goes to long-term warming trends. An important aspect was the set up of the vertical wind profile in relationship to storm motion."
Links and News
• PBS NewsHour special: Chicago Fights Extreme Urban Heat With Greener Ideas
• PBS Frontline special coming on October 23rd: Climate of Doubt
• NOAA: Arctic summer wind shift could affect sea ice loss and U.S./European weather
• NCDC State of the Climate: January to September 2012 the warmest such period on record for the U.S.
• From the AP, "Experts: Global warming means more Antarctic ice"
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.