People in the US state of Oklahoma have had a tough year. The state’s “July average temperature was a scorching 88.9 degrees, the warmest to occur in any state during any month on record. State record hailstone measuring nearly 6” from Gotebo on May 23… At the other extreme, Oklahoma recorded its coldest temperature on record on February 10 when Nowata dipped to a frigid -31 degrees. On that same the day, the state’s heaviest 24-hour snowfall on record piled up, with 27 inches measured in Spavinaw. Not to mention non-weather related events, such as the 5.6 magnitude earthquake, the strongest on record.
The Sooner State is hardly the only one. Back in the spring, there were already more weather-related fatalities in the US than in all of 2010. By the halfway point, NOAA had made it official: 2011 Among Most Extreme Weather Years in History. “Near the halfway point, 2011 has already seen eight weather-related disasters in the U.S. that caused more than $1 billion in damages.”
Then August 2011 set records in several locations for “torrid heat, torrential rain and river flooding. You can thank, in part, an exceptional Plains drought and Hurricane Irene,” another billion dollar event.
Of course, the question is why. A recent study linked air pollution to extreme weather. California is a leader in places where sometimes the air isn’t fit to breathe.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has urged countries to come up with disaster management plans to “adapt to the growing risk of extreme weather events linked to human-induced climate change.” See the report here. And the deniers are in full force.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. We CAN minimize the damage by making changes. Valmeyer, Illinois “was once a community of about 900 on the banks of the Mississippi River, 25 miles south of St. Louis. The Great Flood of 1993 left 90 percent of Valmeyer’s buildings damaged beyond repair…Valmeyer would be rebuilt on a 500-acre parcel on a nearby bluff overlooking the river…with energy-efficient home construction…resource-efficient institutions and…future renewable energy development. When the Mississippi flooded again, the town was safe, though it would not have been had they rebuilt in the same location.
There are simpler things to do, though, such as planting a tree and taking less energy dependent transportation. Meanwhile, check out NOAA’s State of the Climate, a Global Analysis. Interesting stuff.