Humans live about 80 years on average, so we tend to think in time spans of this length (or less) when relating to our world. Perhaps this is why claims are made in each generation that "the weather is worse now than it used to be".
Let's examine some hard data to see if this is true.
1) Arctic sea ice cover has decreased since satellite measurements began in 1979. However, a look back to the 1930s shows arctic temperatures as warm as present day. The logical conclusion is thinner and less extensive ice in that period just as we find now. Furthermore, the sea ice information has only been possible since the satellites' data was available.
Guessing about extremes based on such a short time line is not good science.
While ice core data, tree rings, lake sediment studies, and other such methods can shed some light on previous conditions, they are too general to measure sea ice cover. However, they can be used for tracking of droughts and other land-based events.
2) The media often cry emergency because of supposedly more and bigger hurricanes, but weather records show only the Atlantic Basin has seen an increase, and only since 1995. The data is fairly strong that this is part of a 30-year cycle of ocean current change and is completely normal.
3) An examination of the year 1886 reveals an interesting occurrence. Four hurricanes struck Texas that year; one so intense that the town of Indianola, a point of landfall, was never rebuilt. This is very similar to Florida's ordeal in 2004 with (4) hurricanes.
4) An intense cold snap in 1899 still stands as one of the worst in American history. Ice was reported on Galveston Bay, on the Gulf of Mexico, from this deep freeze!
5) An intensely cold and snowy winter in 1607-1608 is well documented in Italy. Neither of these are evidence of "weather changes", but just weather.
Recent snowstorms are cited examples of trends which often are blamed on greenhouse gas emissions. Whether that's a true or false claim, the bottom line for this discussion is that our history is rife with snowstorms.
6) In fact, the word "blizzard" was coined after an extreme snowstorm in North Dakota/Minnesota in March of 1870 which killed over 70 people and featured 70mph winds. Drifts reached twelve feet deep.
7) The late 1970s saw three of the coldest and snowiest winters in the Great Lakes/northeast in almost a century.
All of these instances fall within the limits of "normal" variations in atmospheric circulation patterns.
8) Since volcanic activity can greatly impact weather, a brief examination of the history of volcanism is also in order. One of the largest volcanic eruptions in Earth history is believed to have happened around 1470B.C. when the Greek island of Santorini exploded. It is now believed that the legend of Atlantis was born from this catastrophic event.
9) The most massive eruption in modern times took place in 1815 at the Indonesian island of Tambora. The ejection of volcanic materials into the atmosphere was so great that weather patterns were altered for several years. New England went through the "year without a summer" as a direct result of this in 1816.The globe hasn't seen an eruptive event on this scale since.
The 2004 earthquake that generated the most deadly tsunami in modern history is again offered up as proof that not only the weather, but the whole earth, is changing. However, when you learn that over 800,00 perished in a 1556 Chinese earthquake, and 200,000 died in a Tokyo quake in 1703, then you can see we're once again guilty of not reading our encyclopedias.
Things continue as always with sudden "jumps" outside of the background norm as what we should expect and what history confirms.