Climate Change: Does it Impact Extreme Weather?


The record heat that much of the country, including Nebraska, saw this summer and the extreme drought the state is still coping with has put climate change and its impacts on the minds of many Americans.

In a recent survey 74 percent of Americans thought climate change was making extreme weather worse.

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Hastings say it does have an impact - but it's hard to tell how much it really changes our weather patterns.

"The drought that we saw this year and the high temperatures we've seen really fit the pattern for extremes during climate change," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Moritz.

Pattern is the key word to focus on.

Climate change cannot be directly linked to any one weather event; it shows its impact on a more broad scale - slightly enhancing extremes in normal weather patterns. An abnormally warm summer and extreme drought aren't necessarily due to climate change but it is possible that they could have been enhanced by it.

Over time people take notice of these extremes.

"People I think are more in tune with some of the impacts, potentially, of weather and climate so I think that's changing people's attitudes about climate change and how it's impacting them."

In cases like extreme drought, especially in a state that relies so heavily on agriculture, people are more likely to link climate change to changes in extreme weather.

When the impacts of the extreme weather are felt close to home people pay more attention to them. When this is coupled with the trend of climate change becoming such a hot political topic, the public is more aware of climate change and more apt to link it to enhanced weather events.

While climate change may slightly enhance certain weather extremes, it's more the increased awareness of climate that makes these events, like drought and record heat, stand out.