“Weather doesn’t equal climate.” It’s a popular saying among weather broadcasters and aficionados, used to explain how seemingly sporadic events don’t have anything to do with climate change. A rare heavy snowfall in the South, a heat wave in Canada, massive rain totals when there should be droughts – ‘these things are merely weather events,’ explains the man on the television. While true, perhaps their abnormal frequency and dramatic swings from one extreme to another are key indicators of something larger at work. But to the general population, what good are hypothetical figures from hand-wringing researchers harping on the apocalypse? Let’s take a look at how these events are affecting the average Joe.
More Deadly, Hot or Cold?
Heat waves are baleful, depressing, and oppressive. There are always somber stories of death during spikes in temperature. However, according to a 2015 study in the British journal The Lancet, extreme cold weather kills 20 times as many people as extreme heat. Most surprising of all is that most temperature related deaths occurred not during extreme events but simply on moderately colder weather days. Doting mothers everywhere, it seems, have been right all along; don’t forget your jacket!
More Costly, Rain or Snow?
News coverage of snow storms in regions not accustomed to such weather has been on the rise over the past thirty years. Snow covered streets, while beautiful can be a serious danger. However, according to a 2015 report compiled by The Auto Insurance Center from NHTSA data, rain is the most dangerous driving condition, resulting in more auto-related deaths than snow. A large factor seems to be overconfidence in driving ability during rain, versus a more diligent and cautious mentality during snow storms. Not only does extreme rain cause problems for drivers, but increased flooding sets the stage for landslides, erosion, a real double-whammy for homeowners.
Hurricanes Hitting the Banks
While the past few years have seen a decrease in Atlantic hurricane activity, the overall trend since record-collecting began has been more and more named storms. Researchers at Landsea in 2008 determined that the financial cost of hurricanes doubles every decade. Where once the damage was merely in lower billions in the 1960s, the cost in the 2000s was several magnitudes higher in the hundred-billions. That beachfront property is going to become harder and harder to insure.
Whether you believe that human industry is the cause, or perhaps that the Earth is in an ever-shifting pattern, there is no denying that the planet’s climate is undergoing critical changes. The evidence is strong for either scenario: increased and dramatic swings from drought to deluge, record-breaking heat waves, snowstorms becoming more frequent in areas where such things have been rarities. Instead of arguing over what is to blame, the real focus should be on how to minimize yearly costs of both money and life.