“What's Up With the Weather?” Part 1: Is Climate Change Causing Our Wild Weather?

More and more scientists now believe that climate change increases the risk of wild and dangerous weather.

What's up with the wild weather? We're posting a series of articles and videos that attempt to answer that question.

“I’m waiting for locusts and pestilence next,” joked Governor Chris Christie during one of his many recent news conferences addressing post-Sandy recovery efforts.

There is of course some truth in jest. In the past few weeks the region has been slammed with nasty weather of seemingly Biblical proportions. An unusual weather pattern slammed Hurricane Sandy directly into the Northeast. Days later, more wind blew through the area, this time combined with snow and sleet.

Our region isn’t the only one suffering right now. Two rare late season tornadoes sliced through Minneapolis, major rain falls caused flooding in Italy and Northeast China was blasted by the heaviest snow it’s seen in 30 years. And scientists say the wild weather is only beginning.

“More events that are extreme in nature and that have the capacity to hurt people and hurt property, we’re going to see more and more of those,” said Dr. Heidi Cullen, a research scientist.

Dr. Cullen works with the group Climate Center. The group describes what we’re in for weather-wise as “Global Weirdness.” Dr. Cullen believes rising temperatures which are changing our climate have increased the odds of extreme storms like Sandy.

“Climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy,” said Dr. Cullen. “Climate change very possibly made Sandy worse.”

NBC10 also spoke to Dr. Jennifer Francis via Skype. She’s a leading expert on the connection between the melting arctic ice and changes in weather patterns like the one that caused Sandy to make an unprecedented sharp left turn into our coast line.

“Literally every storm that forms now is being affected by climate change,” said Dr. Francis. “Nobody can say that wouldn’t have happened without climate change. But the research I’ve been working on suggests that type of pattern in the jet stream is going to be more likely in the future.”

NBC10 also spoke with Dr. David Legates, a climatology professor at the University of Delaware.

“I’m not panicked,” said Dr. Legates. “Weird things happen but you just can’t say because one weird thing happened that this is climate change that is human induced.”

Dr. Legates disputes research that finds climate change is largely a man-made problem. However, the great majority of published research scientists and science academies around the world believe fossil fuels are linked to rising global temperatures.

The bottom line is that it’s hard to blame climate change for any one bad storm. But more and more scientists now believe that climate change increases our risk of being unlucky.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our “What’s Up With the Weather” series when we find out what scientists say is causing our weather changes and what it could mean for both Jersey and Delaware beaches.

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