Climate Change and Extreme Weather

I’ve been planning to write this post for awhile and tonight while I write it we just happen to be under a tornado watch. Oklahoma isn’t a stranger to tornadoes but this tornado season has had an early start. There have already been a lot of tornadoes and normally our season would just be starting.

Now first before going in to the extreme weather we must talk about the differences with weather and climate. A simple way of putting it is weather is the short term, while climate is long term. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe does a good job of explaining this issue in her book, “A Climate for Chance.”

“Weather is what our minds are designed to remember. It describes conditions from day to day, week to week, and even from year to year. Weather is that one sweltering week in July, or the coldest November on record, or the snowiest winter ever.

Climate, on the other hand, is nearly impossible for us to remember. It describes the average weather conditions over tens, hundreds, and even thousands of years. Climate is the average temperature or rainfall in a certain place, based on what it’s been like for decades.”

Okay now on to extreme weather and how that can be related to climate change. Oklahoma was a poster child for extreme weather last year, we had a record drought, broke the state record for most snow to fall in 24 hoursbroke the record for coldest day, had the warmest July on record for the whole U.S., record windspeedrecord wildfires, the largest earthquake reported in the state, and more. It was a crazy year to say the least.

This trend is not just something Oklahoma is feeling, all over the world extreme weather seems to be becoming more normal. But this is all weather right? So, how does that relate to the long term that is climate? Well, a new study shows the possibility for a bigger threat of extreme weather due to climate change.

“By measuring changes in salinity on the ocean’s surface, the researchers inferred that the water cycle had accelerated by about 4 percent over the last half century. That does not sound particularly large, but it is twice the figure generated from computerized analyses of the climate.

If the estimate holds up, it implies that the water cycle could quicken by as much as 20 percent later in this century as the planet warms, potentially leading to more droughts and floods.” –read more

This leads scientist to fear a large acceleration of the water cycle could mean more extreme weather and a greater risk of harm to our food supply, due to droughts in some areas and flooding in others.

While a single event can’t be tied to climate change, the increase in frequency is consistent with the new study’s findings. A climatologist in Australia talks about this when talking about the heat wave in Australia in 2009.

“Climate change is not only increasing average temperatures, but also the frequency and severity of extreme temperature events. While any one event cannot be attributed to climate change, this heat wave is certainly consistent with that expectation. In a warming world we can expect similar extreme events more often.”- Perry Wiles, Climatologist

This all hits home with me as I listen to the thunderstorm outside that has rocked the state and even dropped some damaging tornadoes. And I also think back to last year and all of the extreme weather, including the horrible drought that hurt the state so very much and caused me some sleepless nights worrying about the wildfires my dad, a volunteer firefighter, was out fighting.

With this information I encourage everyone to be extra prepared for disasters. I know I have been thinking more about being prepared for tornadoes, fires, droughts and the many other disaster Oklahoma may face. Heck, last year we had a quakenado, a tornado and earthquake at the same time! So are you and your family thinking a bit more about being prepared for disasters lately? If so, how prepared? Like a few weeks worth like the American Red Cross often recommends or hardcore prepared like the people on Doomsday Preppers?

This post is part of the Connect the Dots, Green Mom’s Carnival, hosted by Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse. The carnival goes live Friday, May 5, 2012. Be sure to check out Big Green Purse on Friday to see the rest of the posts about connecting the dots on climate change.

Disclaimer: The Amazon link is an affiliate link, if you buy from it I will earn a small percent. This however does not affect my views.

Photo credit: NOAA Photo Library

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World Water Day 2012

There is an old saying, “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.” These days this saying is becoming very true. In Oklahoma, the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes are fighting the state of Oklahoma over water on tribal land. Oklahoma agreed to sell storage rights to 90% of the lake but since the lake is on tribal lands the tribes feel they should have a say.

After a record breaking drought in Oklahoma, and many surrounding states, this issue is an even more pressing one. Many of Oklahoma’s towns are concerned about water. Much of the state was under water restrictions during the summer. And with the drought even more water was needed, making the issue even worse.

Texas is also in trouble. Two Texas towns have run out of water and many others are running out. This video from PBS shows just how bad things have gotten and talk about the connection between the water issues and climate change.

Over the past several days Oklahoma and parts of Texas have gotten a lot of rain. This rain will be essential as many believe this coming summer will be another hot one. At this rate many will be forced to conserve water and drastic measures may have to be taken.

Take Action

While there is no easy fix to this problem, we can each do something to help. Waiting to conserve when it becomes dire is not the way to do it. We can, and should, start conserving now. Here are some simple ways to reduce your water usage.

  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and/or shaving. In just one year this simple action will save over 2,880 gallons a year.
  • Skip bottled water. Using a reusable water bottle and filtered tap water can save a lot of water. Did you know it takes around seven liters of water to produce a one liter bottle of water? In one year of skipping bottled water will save around 580 gallons a year.
  • Install a low-flow shower head. This will save around 4,550 gallons a year.
  • Use recycled paper products. It takes a lot of water to produce paper products but recycled ones require much less. This action saves around 640 gallons a year.
  • If you are going to water your lawn do so in the morning or evening. If you water during the hot part of the day a lot of the water will evaporate. This will save around 4,500 gallons a year.
  • Do Meatless Monday. Meat requires a lot of water. Skipping meat just one day a week can save over 170,000 gallons a year.
  • Install faucet aerator. These cheap devices can save you around 1,000 glass a year.
  • Get a rain barrel. The amount you will save depends on a lot of factors but it is a good investment. Depending on your roof the water may or may not be good for food but if nothing else it’s good for flowers and other non-edible plants. You can also put grey water in your rain barrel. Simple things like putting a bucket in the shower and either putting the water on your plants or in your rain barrel can really add up.

Water is going to become more and more of an issue as temperatures rise, droughts become more common and population rates rise. We are going to have to work together to fix these issues.

Please share your water saving tips in the comments below. Also feel free to join this World Water Day blog hop that Abbie from Farmer’s Daughter started.


Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I earn a small percent if you buy a product from the link. However, this does not influence my views.

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