Thursday, 22 March 2012

Heat Wave 'Rewrites History' Across the U.S.

We're two days into spring, and already it feels like summer across much of the United States.

In Chicago yesterday, the temperature reached 87F (about 30C), the hottest it has ever been this early in the season.  The temperature has exceeded 80 degrees seven times in the last eight days. The average high temperature for this time of year is 49F (9C).

Milwaukee  has experienced its warmest March day ever.  In Caribou, Maine, the average high temperature is 36F (2C); yesterday it was 75 degrees (24C).

So yes, it's hot.

Is climate change to blame?  It's impossible to point to any one weather event and say whether or not we can attribute it to climate change.  But these types of temperature extremes match the predictions of climatologists, who expect the Midwestern US to get hotter and drier over the next few decades.

The heatwave isn't definitive proof of climate change, but it provides us with a 'teachable moment'.  This is weird weather, and everyone is talking about it.  The heatwave comes on the heels of an unusually mild winter, last summer's drought across the Southeast and fires in Texas, floods on the Mississippi, and more.  Each one of these was a "once in a century" event, but they keep coming.

People are beginning to realize that these freak events are becoming more common.  And they have a real impact in lives and money.  Perhaps more of us are beginning to wonder whether we're better served investing in measures that fight change rather than spending to clean up after the fact.