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Weather Gone Wild


The biggest dust storm in living memory rolls into Phoenix on July 5, 2011 © Daniel Bryant
The biggest dust storm in living memory rolls into Phoenix on July 5, 2011 © Daniel Bryant

September 7, 2012 — Rains that are almost biblical, heat waves that don't end, tornadoes that strike in savage swarms...there's been a change in the weather lately. What is going on?

Fortified by a levee, a house near Vicksburg survives a Yazoo River flood in May 2011 © Scott Olson/Getty Images
Fortified by a levee, a house near Vicksburg survives a Yazoo River flood in May 2011 © Scott Olson/Getty Images

The following excerpt is from the September issue of National Geographic magazine.

There's been a change in the weather. Extreme events like the Nashville flood—described by officials as a once-in-a-millennium occurrence—are happening more frequently than they used to. A month before Nashville, torrential downpours dumped 11 inches of rain on Rio de Janeiro in 24 hours, triggering mud slides that buried hundreds. About three months after Nashville, record rains in Pakistan caused flooding that affected more than 20 million people. In late 2011 floods in Thailand submerged hundreds of factories near Bangkok, creating a worldwide shortage of computer hard drives. And it’s not just heavy rains that are making headlines.

Read the full article in the September issue of National Geographic magazine
Read the full article in the September issue of National Geographic magazine

During the past decade we’ve also seen severe droughts in places like Texas, Australia, and Russia, as well as in East Africa, where tens of thousands have taken refuge in camps. Deadly heat waves have hit Europe, and record numbers of tornadoes have ripped across the United States. Losses from such events helped push the cost of weather disasters in 2011 to an estimated $150 billion worldwide, a roughly 25 percent jump from the previous year. In the U.S. last year a record 14 events caused a billion dollars or more of damage each, far exceeding the previous record of nine such disasters in 2008.

What’s going on? Are these extreme events signals of a dangerous, human-made shift in Earth’s climate? Or are we just going through a natural stretch of bad luck?

You can view the full article here.

The images provided are from the September edition of National Geographic magazine.

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