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  • U.S. midwest freezes, Australia burns: This is the age of weather extremes

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U.S. midwest freezes, Australia burns: This is the age of weather extremes

Source(s):  New York Times, the (NYT)

By Somini Sengupta


Heat and drought extremes are consistent with scientific consensus: More greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere bring a greater likelihood of abnormally high temperatures. Also, broadly speaking, scientists say, a hotter planet makes extreme weather more frequent and more intense.

The real-life numbers bear out the climate models. Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than they have been in 800,000 years, and average global temperatures have risen. The last four years have been the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization, and the 20 warmest years on record have all come in the past 22 years. Ocean temperatures have broken records several straight years.

As for the extremely low temperatures this week in parts of the United States, they stand in sharp contrast to the trend toward warmer winters. They may also be a result of warming, strangely enough.


Extreme heat, though, is the bigger problem overall.

Heat records have been broken twice as often as cold records in the United States since the 2000s.

One recent study in the journal PLOS Medicine projected a fivefold rise in heat-related deaths for the United States by 2080. The outlook for less wealthy countries is worse; for the Philippines, researchers forecast 12 times more deaths. Extreme heat is already devastating the health and livelihoods of tens of millions of people, especially in South Asia. 


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  • Publication date 29 Jan 2019

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