“It was impossible to ignore climate change this summer,” Rachel Licker, senior climatologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told CNN. “And sadly, this is not a one-time thing … it’s what we can expect more of, especially if we don’t stop fossil fuels and invest in measures to build our resilience as soon as possible. . ”
After months of deadly extremes, Americans’ feelings about the climate crisis have changed dramatically. For the first time, a majority of Americans now believe the United States is facing the consequences of global warming, according to a new survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Here’s what the United States went through this summer.
7. Hurricane Henri
Hurricane Henri, after weakening to a topical storm, inundated parts of the northeast in late August with a deluge of rain from New Jersey to southern New England.
The storm set a new record for the most rain in a single hour in New York City – nearly two inches of rain fell in Central Park from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. on August 21, according to the National Weather Service. Almost 5 inches of rain fell in New York the next day, which also set a record for the date.
Tens of thousands of homes have been without power in the Northeast, and more than 42,000 customers have been left helpless in Rhode Island alone.
Extreme rainfall rates are increasingly common due to human-caused climate change, scientists say. Scientists reported in August that “the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall has increased since the 1950s over most of the land area.”
6. Flash floods in Tennessee
During the same week, Hurricane Henri unleashed a torrent in the northeast, a staggering amount of rain unrelated to the hurricane caused flash floods in Tennessee that destroyed more than 270 homes and killed at least 21 people.
Among those killed were 7-month-old twins, according to the Humphreys County Emergency Management Agency. The twins were swept away from their father’s arms during the flooding, a family member said.
State emergency management officials were not prepared for the scale of the event. Broken telephone lines, coupled with flooded roads, made it more difficult for them to access the flood-prone area. A resident told CNN that even after taking refuge in the highest room of her house, the water continued to rise to the point that the bed she was on began to float.
She said she later called a police officer who urged her to enter the attic and pierce the roof.
5. Declared water shortage
As floods ravaged the east, a water shortage was declared in the west.
In the grip of extreme drought due to climate change and growing demand for water, the federal government in August declared a water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time, sparking mandatory reductions in water use for the southwestern states from 2022.
Two of the country’s largest reservoirs fed by the Colorado River – Lake Powell and Lake Mead – have drained at an alarming rate. Lake Oroville in California fell so low that the reservoir’s hydroelectric power station was closed for the first time since it opened in the 1960s.
Brad Udall, water and climate specialist at Colorado State University, told CNN that the West should prepare for further shortages as the climate crisis escalates.
“Not only do we need to plan for these adverse effects on water, but we also need to pull ourselves together and reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as possible,” Udall said.
4. Bootleg, Dixie and Caldor Fires
A summer of record triple-digit heat and severe drought fueled more than 100 large wildfires in the West. The three largest fires of 2021 burned about 1.6 million acres, an area half the size of Connecticut.
In July, the Bootleg Fire burned more than 410,000 acres in southern Oregon, making it the second largest wildfire in the country this year.
At the same time, the Dixie Fire in California was growing slowly and later surpassing Bootleg as the largest fire in the United States this year, charring nearly a million acres and making it the second largest fire in history. from California.
Weeks later, the Caldor Fire made its way through the El Dorado National Forest, and its smoke resulted in exceptionally poor air quality in Lake Tahoe, California and Reno, Nevada. It is now the third largest fire this year.
High-level winds also carried smoke from the western wildfires across the country, stretching from the West Coast to New York.
“It was shocking to me that huge areas of the country spent weeks under air quality alerts from large wildfires in the West and across Canada,” Licker said. “No matter where you were, you couldn’t avoid climate change.”
3. The heatwave of the Pacific Northwest
Scientists say the unprecedented heat wave that killed hundreds in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia in late June would have been “virtually impossible” without man-made climate change.
Experts told CNN that the normally temperate region is generally not prepared for extreme heat events. Hundreds of people have died from heat-related illnesses in Oregon and Washington, while many have gone to emergency departments or emergency care clinics.
Across the border in British Columbia, the same heat wave fueled a rapid wildfire that destroyed the town of Lytton just a day after the temperature rose to 121 degrees and broke Canada’s record.
Scientists say the punitive heat has also cooked billions of shellfish alive.
This summer was the hottest on record in the United States, tied with the Dust Bowl of the summer of 1936, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
2. Hurricane Ida
In late August, Category 4 Hurricane Ida destroyed homes, uprooted trees and cut power to more than one million residents of the storm-ravaged Mississippi and Louisiana state.
Ida ticked all the boxes explaining how climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous, scientists say: producing more precipitation, moving slower once they make landfall, and generating larger storm surges along the way. rating.
As the storm moved inland, Ida’s remains triggered flash flooding in the northeast. The storm broke Henry’s hour-long rain record in Central Park and gave Newark its wettest day ever. The floods killed at least 50 people in the area, many of whom drowned in basement apartments.
Scientists say storms like this will become more frequent as the planet warms. Hurricane Ida revealed the urgent need to strengthen New York City’s infrastructure in the face of the worsening climate crisis.
1. The historic drought of the West
Amid all the acute disasters, the western United States has been in the grip of a historic drought spanning several years, which scientists say is a clear sign of how the climate crisis is not only affecting the weather. , but also water supply, food production and electricity production. .
More than 93% of the West is in drought this week, according to the US Drought Monitor, with six states completely in a state of drought: California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana.
In southern Oregon, the drying up of the Klamath Basin exploded this year into a water war that pitted local farmers against Native American tribes, government agencies and conservationists. This reflects the dire situation engulfing the West.
The drought has “certainly made it a lot harder for us to cope year after year, and that makes an already tight margin a lot tighter,” Tricia Hill, a 4th generation farmer, told CNN in June. “For all of us, we have families, employees, customers – people we need to figure out how to care for.”
Scientists told CNN that the relentless drought is about to worsen with La Niña on the horizon, and that it could last until 2022 – or potentially longer.