Climate and weather-related disasters have undoubtedly inflicted a large toll on the human population. Whether it be forest fires, cyclones, tornados, droughts, or storms, the effects of mother nature can impose untold damages. In the past 20 years, climate and weather-related events have claimed millions of lives, affecting billions of people, and cost trillions of dollars in economic losses. However, most alarming among these facts is the statistic that climate-related disasters are only becoming more prevalent—with the onset of climate change, meteorological phenomena are becoming both more common and more extreme.
According to the World Meteorological Association, the number of annual climate disasters has increased five-fold in the past 50 years. Other statistics published by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction show that the 3,656 recorded extreme weather events that occurred between 1980 and 1999 grew to 6,681 between the years 2000 and 2019 – an 83% increase. No matter which way you crunch the numbers, extreme weather events are becoming more commonplace. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarized that at the current rate of global warming, the planet will experience four times as many climate disasters as it does now by 2100.
And not only are these events occurring more frequently, but they are also occurring with increasing strength and severity. Heatwaves are getting hotter, sea levels are rising higher, storms are lasting longer, and all the while climate change continues to become more severe, further exacerbating these problems.
One area that has been experiencing significantly increased extreme weather is the United States. In the past 5 years, the US has seen almost 20 annual unique weather disasters that each racked up over a billion US dollars in damages. These events include forest fires, droughts, hurricanes, hail, flooding, cold fronts, and tornados.
The unique geography of the United States makes the nation prone to inclement weather. A high-pressure jet stream of the mid-latitudes brings dry air from the Western coast of the country up and over the mountain ranges spanning the middle of the continent and then deposits it into the warm and moist Gulf of Mexico. These geographical and meteorological conditions are the foundation for many of the extreme weather events that plague the nation. In other words, the contrast of old, drier air and warmer, more moist air seen in the United States fuels the storms that move around the country.
Correspondingly, HD Rain is introducing a new series surveying US weather phenomena to explore what kinds of events are occurring, where they are happening, and expand upon the underlying meteorological conditions that cause them. We hope these insights will help readers gain a deeper understanding of not only extreme US weather events, but also the role climate change plays in their incidence, and the impact the warming temperature is having on our global community.