Will an increased frequency of heat waves in the near future convince Americans to act on global warming?
Stanford scientists recently completed a study using high-resolution climate models and found "Temperatures equaling the hottest season on record from 1951 to 1999 could occur four times between now and 2019 over much of the U.S. The 2020s and 2030s could be even hotter, particularly in the American West. From 2030 to 2039, most areas of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico could endure at least seven seasons equally as intense as the hottest season ever recorded between 1951 and 1999."
"Besides harming human health and agriculture, these hot, dry conditions could lead to more droughts and wildfires in the near future. And many of these climate change impacts could occur within the next two decades."
Will this increased frequency of heat waves and hot, dry conditions in the near future convince Americans to act on global warming?
- TrevorLv 710 years agoFavorite Answer
If there is an increase in heatwave frequency and intensity then I think this will go largely unnoticed or ignored by many people, as such it won’t convince that many people to act.
A sizeable majority of people who have objectively looked at the issue of climate change are already aware that it’s a reality. The remainder are those that are undecided or are in denial.
For those that are undecided I think the most critical factor is the continued publicising of sound science and the accurate reporting of this science in the media. I think it would be fair to say that this has convinced most people that global warming is real, rather than an observed increase in the number of adverse weather events.
The deniers are a different kettle of fish. Once a person has vociferously stated their opinion on a matter it is not so easy for them to back down. Just as we look back now at those who claimed that smoking was harmless or even beneficial, so too will we look back at the climate change deniers with equal incredulity in the years to come.
Returning to the subject of heatwaves. If there were a sudden or dramatic change in heatwave activity then people would realise that something was amiss. However, climate change is much more insidious, the effects accumulate year on year so they tend to go un-noticed.
Here in the UK for example, people over the age of about 40 will always remember and refer to 1976 as being the year of the long hot summer. When the heatwave arrived that year it was an exception and so it made an impression on people. In reality, those temperatures have been exceeded several times since and there have been several far worse heatwaves. These haven’t made such an impression because they weren’t exceptions.
In what was probably the deadliest heatwave in history, some 35,000 Europeans died in the summer of 2003. In contrast, the current US heatwave has claimed 2 lives. Despite the severity of this event it is no longer considered to be that much of an anomaly, since then there have been heatwaves in Europe in 2006, 2007 and 2010. They’ve almost become so frequent that they’re now almost accepted as the norm.
Because most people don’t know what the climate was like 30, 40, 50 years ago it’s impossible for them to make comparisons. If someone could be transported back in time by 50 years they would notice a significant difference and the effects of climate change would immediately hit home.
Most people for example won’t realise that there has already been an increase in the number of heatwaves. A few years ago Paul Della-Marta from MetoeSwiss (the Swiss met office) conducted a study into heatwaves over the past 125 years. The paper concentrated on Europe but the global figures are consistent. Della-Marta’s research showed that in recent decades the number of days reaching ‘heatwave’ status had nearly tripled and the duration of heatwave events had nearly doubled.
The full report was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and summarised on several sites including the BBC.
Because of the inability to compare the recent climate with that of 50 or 100 years ago it makes it difficult for people to appreciate that the climate has actually changed. It’s not only heatwaves that have become more frequent but floods, droughts and storms as well.
For example, in the last 50 years the US has been struck by 27 category 5 hurricanes, in the 50 years before that there were 11. The time scales involved make it difficult for people to realise that the number of these extreme weather events has increased and so they tend to get dismissed as just another heatwave or just another hurricane. For full list of hurricanes see point 6 of my answer here http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=201006...
- MargritLv 44 years ago
Settle down. We can't control the temperature of the planet. IF, and that's a big IF, we have a heat wave like you have imagined, we will adapt the way our soldiers in Iraq have. I have a brother in law, who is 51 years old that has been living in Iraq for the past two years. It has been over 115ºF already and in the middle of the Summer, it gets over 135ºF. We have experienced worse heat waves in the 1930s than we have in the past few years. I worked outside in 1980 when in the central part of the US, we had over a month of consecutive days over 100ºF. The people who don't stay hydrated and/or over exert themselves will suffer. You have to pay attention to the weather and take precautions.
- BGSLv 410 years ago
Unfortunately, if it takes until the 2020s for Americans to become convinced enough to act, then action will have become enormously more expensive and less effective. And if other nations can continue pointing to American intransigence to excuse their own, then we're in trouble.
DrM: Increased frequency and severity of heatwaves are one of the things that climate change is about.
Left Wing Extremist: Actually, global winter temps have been rising faster than summer temps (and night temps faster than day temps). Both these patterns were accurately predicted by the models many years ago.
Trevor as always has an excellent answer. Thanks Trevor! I often feel like there is little more to do than recommend your answer once you've said it. And no, I am not a sock-puppet for Trevor, he just talks a lot of sense and does the hard yards of providing plenty of links. That ought to be respected.
Jim Z: Droughts and floods are both entirely consistent with climate change. They are both modifications of the hydrological cycle (water cycle) that result from more energy in the atmosphere, which not only increases the amount of moisture it can hold (so we get heavier precipitation events (snowstorms and floods)), but also changes the pattern of their distribution, both geographically and seasonally. So there is no contradiction involved. Just because climate change isn't simple is no reason to write it off. It's the *climate*; of course it isn't simple.
- JSBLv 410 years ago
I certainly hope so but I am worried that these forecasts have less certainty to them than global warming.
Global warming will lead to more frequent severe weather events but it is very difficult to tell where these events will occur. If they happen in the USA then they may influence thinking there but Americans need to realise that there is a need to act even if the severe weather events happen elsewhere. Severe weather events will eventually effect us all because rises in sea levels and disruption of food supplies will cause mass migrations and huge economic disturbance.
It is to be hoped that people throughout the world will take action to reduce CO2 emissions and the depletion of fossil fuel resources before the adverse effects are too obvious and, perhaps, unstoppable. Certainly the sooner we act the cheaper the adjustments.
Best wishes for a more sustainable future.Source(s): 41 years working in the UK government departments for agriculture and environment.
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- andyLv 710 years ago
You have to remember Dana that the period between 1951 and 1999 includes a down turn in global temperatures so you are saying that in the next 10 to 20 years we will experience hotter weather then during a cooler period in the recent past? That is a no brainer and not science. It would have been better if they compared it to the last period of unusually hot weather, the 1930's.
- Rainbow WarriorLv 410 years ago
"Will an increased frequency of heat waves in the near future convince Americans to act on global warming?"
No... Those that have their arms around the issue have been taking viable action on a personal level and making changes for years now. Those that claim skepticism or are in denial will save faith by continued rationalizations or continue to be oblivious.
It's the frog in the pot of slowly boiling water metaphor, the frog won't jump out and get cooked!
With the ability to spin any issue like a top, as we see everyday in the media, people will continue to believe only what they want and continue to patronize information sources that only tell them what they want to see and hear.
We need to re-frame the issue to get results. For example; with the Gulf/BP situation we should now refer to what is commonly refereed to as fossil fuels as disaster fuels; coal oil and nukes. this is a better division because all have the potential of mass destruction where as the renewables have absolutely zero potential for the same kind of destruction.Source(s): 30 years of environment activism...
- Anonymous10 years ago
Funny how many will interpret 'Americans' as deniers and then take it as an attack on their position. jim predictably did...
Yes, I think that many Americans will become more concerned about Global Warming/Climate Change as more extreme weather presents itself, especially heat waves like the one that we just experienced here in RI, not long after the historical flooding and not long after the once again unusually mild winter [yes, there was a cold snap] and before that the lack of any Autumn to speak of. I'm sure that if you polled the North East you would see very high confidence in Global Warming as well as AGW and Climate Change.
I wouldn't expect the more adamant deniers to change their minds, though. They will probably start claiming that HAARP is being used by the government and scientists to control the weather to match their predictions...
- Raisin CaineLv 710 years ago
Not sure. If the "heat waves" weerr small increases, than it is possible it will happen, and it certainly would not suggest runaway AGW as the 2010 heat doesn't suggest runaway AGW. But I would definately like to see all these people who are "concerned" about AGW do what I have done and pick a car that is fuel efficient, and an energy company that is mostly "green energy", recycle, and limit my use of water. It cracks me up that I am more "green" than most of the fools that call me a "denier" and make stupid claims of my selfishness. Perhaps if those who felt something needs to be done, would actually get off their butts and make changes in their own life and stop asking the government to do everything for us, we would stop moving towards a socialist society and we would have a little more self-worth because we would know that we are capable of fixing our own problems.
- Anonymous10 years ago
No. you can educate and educate the population of how this massive population is not healthy for the Earth but thy well never listen. They believe the Earth si going through cycles. I think allot of it has to do with a false security. It easy to ignore Global warming just turn on a TV insted of face the issue. It easy to get wrap up in the media. It easy to think we are always going to be okay. Truth, is their well, come a day when soemthing horffic going to happen to the Earth. People well still deny it and go back to watching TV. No one wants to tkae resposiblty of taking care of the only planet that can support life . (As we know of). They rather turn on a TV see who wore a red dress on the red carpet. They live blindly, immaturely, they shrug it off say it might not happen in my day.Or deny the truth!Source(s): THEIR NOT GOING TO ACT TILL IT IS TO LATE!
- 10 years ago
I doubt it, it should but it probably won't. In fact the last place we should look for any positive global action is the USA. The empire is collapsing, and about time too, say I