Is the weather actually becoming more extreme? - R. Saravanan
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From 2016 to 2019, the world saw record-breaking heat waves, rampant wildfires, and the longest run of category 5 tropical cyclones on record. The number of extreme weather events has been increasing for the last 40 years, and current predictions suggest that trend will continue. So, is the increase in extreme weather due to random chance, or changing climate? R. Saravanan investigates.
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Natural disasters like wildfires and heat waves seem to be occurring ever more often. Is it just a string of bad luck or has something about our planet changed? To answer that, we need to understand the difference between the planet’s weather and climate.One of the important concepts in weather prediction is the Butterfly Effect, which says that small errors in our knowledge of the initial conditions can results in large errors in the predicted weather. This concept was originated by MIT scientist Ed Lorenz, considered the father of chaos theory. The Butterfly Effect has also permeated popular culture, e.g., it plays a role in the movie Jurassic Park.The role of boundary conditions in determining how climate changes is another important concept. An example of a boundary condition is the increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide over time, which was measured by the chemist Charles Keeling at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This increase can help explain the warming seen in global temperatures over the last 150 years. CarbonBrief.org has many interesting articles relating to this warming, like the one about changes in extreme weather around the world.Additional resources on weather and climate will be made available and updated at the Educator’s website.
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