In my last post on this blog, I discussed how Native science can inform about global climate change. Some might say this is a stretch. I do not. In the Native science view of the environment, human communities are an integral part of ecological systems. This is a fundamental concept of environmental science. In this post I acknowledged reports written about the extreme weather events that have occurred not only this year, but for decades. In particular I called our attention to the unbelievable floods in Pakistan, the searing heat and fires in Russia, and the heat wave over much of North America.
Here is a map to showing some of the extreme weather events of this past year. These are only a few.
View Extreme Weather Events in a larger map
Jay Gulledge, Senior Scientist and Director of the Science and Impacts Program at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, wrote on his Pew Center blog that there are important lessons to be learned from the “extreme weather” that has impacted many regions of the earth.
Here is a synopsis of his recent post on the Pew Center blog:
- The weather of 2010 continues the chaos of recent years. In the past six months, the American Red Cross says it “has responded to nearly 30 larger disasters in 21 [U.S.] states and territories. Floods, tornadoes and severe weather have destroyed homes and uprooted lives …” Severe flooding struck New England in March,Nashville in May, and Arkansas and Oklahoma in June.
- Nearly the entire northern hemisphere is experiencing a massive heat wave this summer. Back in February, heavy snowfall in D.C. prompted some politicians to decry global warming, but those voices are now silent in the searing heat that has gripped much of the world this summer.
- The current flooding in Pakistan is the worst in that country’s history, with two million people homeless, 20 million affected, more than a million acres of croplands flooded, and signs of an incipient cholera epidemic.
- Russia is locked in the worst heat wave and drought in its documented history, with unprecedented high temperatures in Moscow and hundreds of wildfires burning out of control. The combination of extreme heat and thick smoke and smog from the fires doubled the city’s death rate at the peak of the heat wave last week.
Gulledge raises the question: Is there a connection between these extreme weather events and global climate change? It’s a question that is debated every time an extreme weather event occurs. And the question is one that we should engage our students with. Gulledge, one of the leading climate scientists answers the question, in part, this way:
As usual, there is no definitive answer about these specific events, but direct observations show that extreme weather events have become more frequent in the past half-century, and in the extreme cases that have been studied, the mechanisms are those that one would expect from global warming. At the most basic level, more droughts and heat waves are expected because of hotter, longer-lasting high pressure systems that dry out the land, as witnessed in Russia. On the other hand, more floods are expected because hotter air evaporates more water from the surface and holds more moisture.
Gulledge’s blog a valuable resource for our students. Here you will be brought in touch with a website that provides reliable information on global climate change, and lead you to other sources of information.