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May 2011
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Human-Induced Climate Change

Ok, I’ll admit it I’m a nerd. Last week I was bored at a work course and bought a copy of Scientific American to keep me entertained. They had a mini-bite on human-induced climate change and questioning its effects on more extreme weather events. Flooding. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. etc.

From the Climatic Science Email Scandal to recent Tornadoes in the US and New Zealand, the debate on human-induced climate change seems to be in the news most days. How much of an influence do human’s have on climate change? What about the influence of La Niña?   Is there anything else contributing to these extreme weather events?

Who’s to blame for Climate Change?

Of the things I read this week, this quote really stuck with me:

“If you look at the past 60 years of data, the number of tornadoes is increasing significantly, but it’s agreed upon by the tornado community that it’s not a real increase,” said Grady Dixon, assistant professor of meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University.

“It’s having to do with better (weather tracking) technology, more population, the fact that the population is better educated and more aware. So we’re seeing them more often,” Dixon said.

Tornadoes are a combination of bad thunderstorms, wind coming from the opposite direction of the thunderstorm and a strong updraft. But the number of thunderstorms is increasing. So are the number of wind storms. I agree with the science of tornadoes I disagree that the sole reason we are recording more tornadoes is because of our ability to measure them.

Given that the latest tornadoes in the US were about a mile wide, some of the biggest ever recorded I think tornadoes, like other natural disasters are changing, and not for the better.

I’ve been reading Tim Flannery’s, The Weather Makers, a book about “How we are changing climate and what it means for life on earth.” It’s “a straightforward and powerfully written look at the connection between climate change and global warming” (Publishers Weekly on Amazon).

The evidence is overwhelming from our consumption of coal for electricity, our desire to drive our personal automobiles, our need to acquire ‘stuff’ that we are affecting the weather on earth. Every time we ‘consume’ we pump harmful CO2 back into the air, causing the planet to warm, oceans to dry up, glaciers to melt, which in turn affects the precipitation patterns (less rain here, a little to a lot more over there).

What do we do? Do we live with an increased number of storms? With more intense storms? Or can we admit that there is a change in weather patterns and do anything and everything we can to minimize their impacts?