No one can dispute that the past few years have been unusual ones for weather. While one western state suffers the worst drought in years, a neighboring state is pummeled with torrential rains and flooding. Ice caps show alarming signs of melting while the mountain states get snow in June.
Scientists are about equally divided over whether our relatively recent bout of freak weather occurrences is due to global warming or the natural cycle of weather. Some say that because we have developed such advanced technology, we’re more aware of weather that’s been occurring naturally for centuries while others point to an marked increase in atmospheric vapor that seems to be affecting weather patterns.
Those who are fighting for recognition of global warming point out that increased greenhouse gases and the pollution of the past fifty years are making our cloud cover denser, throwing the earth’s heat back to the surface instead of dissipating into space. This warming of the planet allows more moisture to be trapped in an endless cycle that some say can only be broken by human intervention.
The 2005 hurricane season in the United States was spectacular as well as deadly, most notably Hurricane Katrina, but 1969 was also a record year for hurricanes. Camille, one of the costliest storms of the century in lives and properties, could have been Katrina’s twin. It’s true that weather seems to run in cycles but we are seeing those cycles gradually shorten in length. It’s only natural to try to look objectively at atmospheric changes and seek way to minimize weather’s impact on our lands and human lives.
Scientists do agree, however, that weather is local while climate is long-term. Weather, like the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, affects only one region while climate is global. It’s easy to become alarmed as normally cool regions experience record heat and drought while growing seasons are disrupted in normally temperate climes by heat waves.
The effects of increased moisture in the atmosphere has been devastating to many regions, most recently the Midwest United States. Unnaturally heavy rains swelled rivers, straining dams and levees past the breaking point and destroying thousands of acres of crops. The damage to millions of homes and the loss of life has been staggering.
It really doesn’t matter if global warming is responsible for the strange weather that countries around the globe have been experiencing in the past decade. It’s a fact that human-made pollution and greenhouse gases are adversely affecting the atmosphere and it’s up to us to repair that damage as quickly as possible.