Los Angeles Times
August 23, 2011
Nation’s Weather Extremes May Be the New Normal
Julie Cart and Hailey Branson-Potts
Climatologists are warning that the extreme weather events experienced this year may become the new “normal” in the future. In addition to hundreds of deaths from cold and heat and tornadoes, the national economic toll for extreme weather so far this year is estimated at $35 billion, more than five times the average annual loss. According to a story in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, “[c]limate scientists point to the predictable and cumulative effects of climate change — both hot and cold — to account for much of the extreme weather, although the connection between tornadoes and climate is not clear. In any event, scientists caution that the future will hold greater temperature extremes, and for longer duration.” Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that extreme weather events have been more frequent since 1980. According to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, one way climate changes can be assessed is by measuring the frequency of events considered “extreme” (among the rarest of temperature, precipitation and storm intensity values). The Climate Extremes Index (CEI) value for the contiguous United States is an objective way to determine whether extreme events are on the rise. The number of extreme climate events (those which place among the most unusual of the historical record) has been rising over the last four decades.