As the world’s population grows1, extreme weather2 conditions affect more and more people3. The weather events may include flooding4, powerful storms5 and droughts6 – or lack of rain7. Many scientists are predicting8 that, while9 the number of storms may not increase10, their strength11 will.
The issue12 is of interest to officials with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Los Angeles, California. The aquarium is using a federal government program to help educate people about the effects of extreme weather. Mark Jackson is a weather expert13 with NOAA -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Extreme weather is the norm14 across the globe. There are15 certain things such as16 heat waves17, such as droughts, and in some parts of the globe heavy precipitation18, that we are seeing an increase in these events.”
But other scientists say extreme weather is here to stay. Glen MacDonald is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Places which are dry19 are probably going to get dryer20 globally. Places which are already21 wet22 are probably going to get wetter. They’re going to get the precipitation we’re missing out23 on.”
Mark Jackson says the number of hurricanes24 and typhoons25 has not increased over the past 50 years26. But he says those storms have become27 more powerful, and he believes that will continue. Professor MacDonald is careful about28 predicting extreme weather events. He says scientists have just 150 years of weather records29 to examine.
“In terms of attributing, in terms of general hurricane system, the general flood system, the general drought system that precipitation events have become more extreme or something like that30 I just don’t think we have the statistics to show that generalization is true right now31.”
Scientists do agree32 that weather events such as storms and droughts will continue to happen. They say reducing the production of greenhouse33 gases could help, but that takes time34. Studies have linked35 such gases to rising36 temperatures in earth’s atmosphere.
A way of predicting37 weather for a period longer than38 14 days could help reduce the costly39 effects of extreme weather. Mr. Jackson says NOAA is developing40 a program that he hopes41 will be successful42 in predicting the weather between 15 and 30 days into the future.
“It’s very possible and it’s something that can be a very powerful tool43 to help us better adapt and be prepared for these extreme events.” Jerry Schubel is the president of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Los Angeles. He says people must understand the seriousness of44 extreme weather, and take action45 when such weather is predicted.
“Improved forecast46 and longer warning times47 are of little value unless48 they are heeded49.” NOAA has developed an educational program it calls “Science on a Sphere50.” The federal agency hopes the program will help people better understand the environment51 and the planet, including storms, climate change52, and ocean temperature. It shows videos on a large model of the Earth53.
Mr. Schubel says severe weather affects everyone everywhere54. “There’s no place55 in the world that is immune.” More than 100 museums and other buildings around the world are using the program to educate people about extreme weather.
People in Europe, Asia and North and South America are learning about56 the environment and how to live on our quickly-changing57 planet. I’m Jonathan Evans