Here’s where to look to see its impacts on a human scale – and what these warning signs mean.
As temperatures increase, there’s also an increase in the amount of moisture evaporating from land and water. That means there’s less water left behind. Climate change is also shifting our weather patterns, meaning that areas where we used to expect a steady amount of rainfall are now experiencing more unpredictable and extreme precipitation.
At the same time, snowpack and glaciers — two key sources of water for many people worldwide — are melting faster due, in part, to warmer weather. If that’s not scary enough, NASA scientists recently predicted the potential for a decades-long “megadrought” unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Once you see the drought sign, the Wildfire sign won’t be far behind. That’s because droughts dry out the land, killing plant life and creating the perfect source for a hungry wildfire. And, with less predictable rains, it’s harder to stop these fires once they begin.
But wait — if the planet is warmer and that leads to drought, why does climate change also lead to floods? It may seem counterintuitive at first, but floods and droughts go hand-in-hand. When the earth is so parched for an extended period of time, the soil can’t absorb the sudden downfall of rain when it finally comes. And with our weather patterns becoming stronger and less predictable, the spring showers of the past are turning into extreme storms, leading to sudden downpours, rushing waters, and flooded roads. Increased wildfires further compound the problem by leaving behind a burn scar. With nothing to hold the soil in place, and the ground unable to absorb the water, floods and landslides become a serious danger.
It’s getting hot in here, and a hotter planet means more heat waves. Climate change has shifted the odds and changed the natural limits, making heat waves more frequent and more intense. Don’t believe it? This is the cold truth about warm weather: Fourteen of the 15 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. Even a small change in average global temperature leads to a big change in the frequency and severity of heat waves. Since 1950, the number and duration of heat waves worldwide has increased. And the hottest days and nights have become even hotter and more frequent.
Love the warm water at the beach? So do hurricanes. With warmer ocean temperatures, the hurricanes feed on the heat and can absorb more energy — sometimes called “weather on steroids.” While the number of hurricanes has not been increasing, the severity of hurricanes has been on the rise. Stronger hurricanes mean higher winds and stronger storm surges and devastating damages and losses of life, as we’ve seen with Super Typhoons Haiyan (Yolanda), Vongfong (Ompong), and Melor (Nona).
We’ve made a lot of progress in the fight against climate change. But our work isn’t finished.
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