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What Causes Extreme Weather, Humans Or Nature?

By Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV
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South Westfield on East Main Street, June 1, 2011. (credit: Rob Macedo at Skywarn)

South Westfield on East Main Street, June 1, 2011. (credit: Rob Macedo at Skywarn)

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BOSTON (CBS) – When it comes to the weather, it seems that everything is going to extremes.

In just the past year, there was the Blizzard Blitz with 80 inches of snow in 6 weeks, and then the June 1st F3 Tornado that touched down in Springfield and plowed through 15 other towns. Hurricane Irene later created billions of dollars in damage along the East Coast. Finally, the recent late October Nor’easter left hundreds of thousands without power and people scratching their heads.

Scientists from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change will soon report that there is a 75% chance that man-made global warming is already creating climate extremes by boosting the frequency and intensity of heat waves, wildfires, floods and cyclones. Such disasters are likely to increase in the future.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Joyce reports

Professor of Climate Studies Bruce Anderson says our emissions of carbon dioxide are like stoking a steam engine.

“You are certainly going to drive the temperatures up, but you are also adding more energy, revving up the machinery, the circulations start spinning faster and faster. In this case those circulations are the atmospheric storms we have been experiencing,” said Anderson.

Nature repeats itself over and over again on time scales humanity has trouble understanding because of short lifespans. History shows there have always been times of extreme weather producing real climatic hardship. The question is, are these extreme events getting worse?

“I don’t think the weather has been nearly as extreme as it was in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s,” said Meteorologist Joe Bastardi.

He is quick to point out The 30’s had the most widespread heat and drought. The 30’s to 50’s the most hurricanes, the 50’s to 70’s the most significant tornado outbreaks.

“What is often neglected is weather goes in cycles in the United States an around the world,” said Bastardi.

Joe D’Aleo is a long range meteorologist for WeatherBell.com. He is skeptical of our contribution to climate change. He blames the extreme weather pattern on a warm Atlantic Ocean and a Cold Pacific producing frequent La Ninas.

heatindexgraph What Causes Extreme Weather, Humans Or Nature?

Click to enlarge. (Credit: CCSP, 2009)

“La Ninas tend to be very stormy with lots of snow in the north, very extreme cold, produce drought in the southern states, tornadoes in the spring, produce hurricanes on the east coast. All of these were predicted in advance,” said D’Aleo.

There is a very real argument in the science community to what is causing the extreme weather. Is this extreme weather just at the start of a climate changing because human-induced global warming? Or is this extreme pattern just part of the natural cycle of weather which has been extreme many many times before.

One thing all the scientists can agree on, plenty of more weather extremes lie ahead.

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