New News on Extreme Weather and Global Warming, This Game is Getting Old

You’re familiar with the game Connect the Dots; there’s a pattern of dots on a page and you draw a line linking each dot with the next and when you’re done you can clearly see the picture the pattern formed.

My seven year-old did this a few years back when he was in nursery school.  The first patterns he tried had the dots very close together so it was easier to connect them.

Well, we're seeing more and more dots connecting carbon pollution and extreme weather. The latest dots: Environment America today released a new comprehensive analysis of more than 80 million daily precipitation records from across the United States which found that intense rain and snowstorms have become more frequent and severe. And NRDC went live with our new website on extreme weather, This is What Global Warming Looks Like. More on that one further down. (See also my colleague Dan Lashof and his latest blog).

We already have more than enough dots to connect extreme weather, climate change and the amount of carbon pollution we’re dumping into the atmosphere. We need to act now to cut this dangerous pollution. The good news is that it can be done. The Obama Administration’s new clean car standards  will cut pollution in half, and the Environmental Protection Agency has issued new health safeguards that will also reduce global warming pollution. More solutions exist to cut this pollution and protect our health, but unless we put more of them in place right away, the extreme weather we are seeing this year will become the new normal.

According to the new Environment America study, When It Rains It Pours: Global Warming and Increase in Extreme Precipitation Between 1948 and 2011, extreme downpours are happening 30 percent more often than they did on average in 1948.

That means large rain or snowstorms that used to happen once a year are now happening every nine months, on average. Why, because the air is warmer than it used to be—thanks to the global warming pollution that vehicles, power plants and factories have been pumping out—and warmer air holds more moisture. The moisture gets there mostly because when it’s hotter more water evaporates into the air. 

The average temperature in the United States has increased by 2° F over the last 50 years. Nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. In the last year, almost every state has seen at least one devastating storm, and these will be getting more frequent and more intense due to a warming climate. (More from NOAA here)

One of the Environment America report’s authors, Nathan Wilcox noted in the press release:

As the old saying goes, when it rains, it pours – especially in recent years as bigger storms have hit us more often. We need to heed scientists’ warnings that this dangerous trend is linked to global warming, and do everything we can to cut carbon pollution today.

The study goes on to point out the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country experienced the largest increases in the frequency of extreme precipitation, seeing increases of 85 percent and 55 percent respectively.  That means that heavy downpours or snowstorms that happened once every 12 months on average in 1948 in New England now happen every six and a half months, on average. 

Next dot: today NRDC launched an extreme weather website.

There are sections for different impacts. These include and contain:


-A searchable map (by state and zip code) that shows specific health-related problems resulting from climate change.

-Details on "killer heat" - heat-related deaths - in the 40 biggest cities in the United States, and how some cities are adapting to this new normal.

-Links to reports showing how heat-related deaths are rising at alarming rates.


-A searchable map of extreme weather disasters across the United States last year.

-Links to statistics showing how the first six months of this year were the hottest six months ever recorded, and how 13 of the hottest years ever occurred in the past 15 years.

-How some states are taking steps to address the effects of climate change-related weather disasters - and how many more still need to act.


-A searchable drought vulnerability map showing how dry conditions affected states and communities across the country from 2000-2009

-Links to statistics showing how more than 80 percent of the United States is currently in extreme dry or drought conditions.

-How one-third of all counties in the Lower 48 states (1,100 counties) face higher risks of drought by mid-century because of climate change, and how some are adapting.


-A  searchable flood vulnerability map that shows flood conditions in states and communities from 2000-2009.

-How climate change could impact stormwater controls and water supplies in 12 major U.S. cities, and how some are preparing and others are not.

-Links to studies showing how the frequency of major rains in the Midwest have more than doubled in the past 50 years.


The dots already paint a picture that is way too clear. It’s time to call on our leaders to act.