Is Extreme Weather The New Norm?

Written by Lisa Sharp

Most of the United State has experienced extreme weather this summer. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) announced that the lower 48 states had the hottest July since 1895. During July 2012, temperatures were 3.3 degrees above the average for the 20th century. And it wasn’t just July that was hot, March was the warmest on record as well.

The heat and lack of rainfall has pushed nearly 63 percent of the lower 48 states into a drought.

Will the extreme heat and drought become the new norm? A new study examines six decades of global temperature data and concludes that the sharp increase in the frequency of extreme heat in the summer can only be the result of human-caused global warming.

Weather Vs. Climate

One thing that is important to understand when talking about climate change is the difference between weather and climate. A very simple way of looking at this is: weather is short term, and climate is long term. Climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, explains this in her book, “A Climate For Change: Global Warming Facts For Faith-Based Decisions.”

Weather is what our minds are designed to remember. It describes conditions from day to day, week to week, and even from year to year. Weather is that one sweltering week in July, or the coldest November on record, or the snowiest winter ever.

Climate, on the other hand, is nearly impossible for us to remember. It describes the average weather conditions over tens, hundreds, and even thousands of years. Climate is the average temperature or rainfall in a certain place, based on what it’s been like for decades.

Scary Predictions

James E. Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies paints a pretty scary picture in a recent article for the Washington Post. When Hansen testified before the Senate in the summer of 1988, he warned us about climate change. He grimly outlines the consequences of steadily increasing temperatures, driven by mankind’s use of fossil fuels.

Here’s what I find particularly scary:

…too optimistic…my projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather…In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures…my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.

Hansen says events such as the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the extreme droughts in my home state of Oklahoma and Texas last year can be attributed to climate change. He also believes the same is likely to be true for the current heat wave blanketing much of the U.S.

The New Norm

Earlier this year the USDA updated the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, due to changes in the climate. With the changes we are currently witnessing, one has to wonder, will they have to change the map again soon?

What will happen to our food supply if farmers can no longer grow the same crops? In Oklahoma, we are already seeing changes. One noticeable change is the fact that vineyards are popping up around the state. Oklahoma’s climate was always too wet for wine grapes, but it is becoming drier and drier, which lends the land to grape growing. While this change isn’t bad for local food lovers that want a good local wine, other areas suffer. Beef is a big industry in Oklahoma, but now many ranchers are getting out of the business because grazing land and hay are difficult to come by.

This leaves me with a few questions:

  • Will excessive heat and drought be the new norm for my state?
  • Can we slow down and even stop climate change, or will we have to adapt?
  • What are some of the changes that have come about because of the changing climate in your state?
  • Can the presidential candidates please have a serious conversation about climate change without arguing and politicizing the issue? We want answers NOW!

Tell the presidential candidates to talk about global warming.

Photo credit: Shutterstock


Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Annelize Du Preez

What is not mentioned in this report is the very real threat what the impact of global warming on insect behaviour could cause. One example is that malaria areas will expand and this serious and often fatal disease will spread. With that also parasites will have a negative impact on our livestock and cattle, and even domestic pets which could be harmful to people. We need to save our planet fast before it kills us.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago


Lourdes Acevedo
Lourdes Acevedo4 years ago

Thanks for sharing!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago


Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Gene Jacobson
Gene Jacobson4 years ago

(continued)scientists now think we are past the point of being able to reverse the harm we've done the planet. If that's true, then more than climate change is on the horizon, potential mass extinction is also a very real possibility. With some very wild weather before then and now. I'm not very proud of us, particularly those of us who continue to deny the evidence piling up faster than we can record it. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." That would be the skeptics and those who are profiting from the creation of this miserable potential end to homo sapiens time on this beautiful blue planet. IT will survive, and hopefully the next sentient species to arise will have moral character that we seem to lack. Or that those who are getting richer through this calamity certainly lack. I know I sound like a broken record, but better a broken record than silence on what is I believe the most pressing problem we face. Our inability to get along, person to person, nation to nation, pales in comparison to extinguishing life on Earth. Sigh.

Gene Jacobson
Gene Jacobson4 years ago

"Hansen says events such as the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and the extreme droughts in my home state of Oklahoma and Texas last year can be attributed to climate change. He also believes the same is likely to be true for the current heat wave blanketing much of the U.S."

Yes. It is the new norm. And this isn't new information. Global warming births climate change. An Inconvenient Truth pointed this out in 2005 and everything since confirms it. The increased melt at the poles and of the Greenland Ice sheet, and the rapidly declining mountain glaciers adds water to the oceans, there is more open sea now than ever, that means more evaporation because of the greater water surface which increases the amount of water in the atmosphere which means MUCH stronger storms and turbulence on the ground in the form of tornadoes, tropical storms and hurricanes. The increased turbulence causes the jet stream to vacillate much more than what was normal creating climate change - drought where it is not normally seen and huge storms and rainfall where they are not normally seen. So, yes this is the new normal. But it isn't where the story ends. Eventually the ocean vectoring system shuts down and a new ice age begins, given that CO2 levels are higher than they were 640,000 years ago during the last great ice age which was a "snowball" earth, completely encased in ice, that could well be our future. And our end. The worst news is that scientists now t

Helen Krummenacker

Mandy, read and open your mind! This isn't about discomfort. Drought and desertification is going to bring famines. People in vulnerable populations, especially the elderly, do die in heat waves. Floods can kill-- and global warming brings more cyclonic storms. Wildfires devastated Australia only a few years ago. Places that used to rarely see tornadoes are getting them more often. Warming oceans are bringing swarms of jellies. In short, there are plenty of reasons why some people will NOT live, thanks to climate change.