Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
January 26, 2023

Weather trends intensify due to climate change

By TANVI NARVEKAR | March 5, 2020

Climate change and global warming affect the weather in more ways than you can think of, and changing weather affects humans in even more ways. Last week, I discussed how climate change affected health. This week, I’ll be talking about how climate change affects the climate and weather.

It is important to consider how precipitation is affected by climate change because many ecosystems and environments can be affected by any change. Let’s zoom in on the U.S. In areas over the U.S., total annual precipitation has increased over land areas. According to research done by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, for every one degree Celsius rise in global temperature, the water holding capacity of the air increases by seven percent. An increased water holding capacity will lead to an increased precipitation. According to the Third National Climate Assessment, average national annual precipitation has increased by four percent. Even if we look at individual states, we can see an increase. According to Climate Central, 90 percent of U.S. states have seen an increase in precipitation. 

Why is an increase in precipitation bad? Not only does it ruin specific environments, it can have negative effects on human health. As mentioned last week, more precipitation can lead to flooding and increased spread of vector-borne diseases. 

Thunderstorms and tropical cyclones, which feed off of moisture in the air become more intense due to the increased precipitation. Examples include tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Consider, for example, Hurricane Harvey, a Category-3 hurricane that landed in Texas in 2017. The subsequent flooding devastated the community. While the number of hurricanes may not be increasing, their intensities are. 

Varied precipitation patterns can also lead to more drought. Droughts in California and other states may be a result of the changing global temperatures. Some Southwestern states have seen as much as a two-degree Celsius rise in average air temperature from 2000-2015. If we expand and look on a more global scale, we can see that the dryness and heat have caused massive fires — for example, the Australian fires in January of this year. Increased temperatures can dry out the soil and eventually lead to conditions that can fuel a wildfire even if rainfall patterns remain unchanged. These drought-like conditions enable wildfires to grow stronger. These fires further exacerbate climate change because they release greenhouse gases. 

We need to take into consideration that climate change has a local and global effect on weather, and we should take action and make efforts to slow down climate change before these effects become too much.

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