Weather is one of the most critical factors when it comes to the survival of every living thing on earth, and extreme weather can be devastating to both plants and animals. Today, many believe that global warming is the culprit that is producing noticeable changes in the climate and the resulting intense effect that it has on extreme weather around the world. These extreme events are not the result of long term climate change that has happened gradually over millions of years, but abrupt climate change brought on by a variety of factors.
According to the EPA, these extreme events may occur due to natural changes such as changes in the Earth’s orbit, or either a brightening or dimming of the sun. These may produce melting ice sheets or changes in the strength or weakness of ocean currents. Of course, emissions of certain gases and particles into the atmosphere may also produce these results. While the EPA points out the consequences that are associated with global warming, they are also quick to point out that the jury is still out as to what percentage is a natural earth cycle and what percentage is manmade.
One of the most obvious consequences of global warming is intense heat. According to the EPA, since 1950, heat waves have increased substantially. These heat waves are not only dangerous to the population directly, they produce drought conditions that endanger plant life, food supplies, and local economies. They produce food and water shortages, dangerous wildfires, and the potential for disease.
Global warming in some areas of the world has also produced an abundance of rain which is just as devastating. Too much moisture produces flooding, damaged crops and food supplies, contamination of ground water, and disease. It is believed that increase in overall temperatures may be increasing instances of typhoons and tropical storms as well. The resulting flooding erodes the land, devastates areas used for agriculture, and endangers lives. The increase in sea levels, which might result from the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, also endangers potable water sources and produces life threatening flooding.
Changes in the overall global climate can also produce cooler temperatures and increased snowfall in certain areas. These changes increase the risk and dangers of extremely cold temperatures on people, livestock and crops, and heavy snowfall is hazardous and sometimes deadly.
Whatever the cause for the change in temperature of the earth and the weather conditions it produces, extremes in weather are never beneficial and can produce long lasting effects on the earth and every living thing.