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Could Climate Change Be the U.S.’s Biggest Threat?

City Tech Blogger Siobhan Smith

We can all agree that climate change has become an increasingly popular topic in the media. In this past year, we have had several protests throughout the world in efforts to stress the importance of reducing the amount of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) emissions we release into our atmosphere. As inhabitants of this Earth, we are experiencing changes in our environment that we have linked to climate change. Changes to our climate not only affect our environment but it also affects those that live in it. That includes us humans whether we want to admit it or not. Over the past decade, we have witnessed several severe weather conditions that have posed a huge threat to the U.S.’s growing population, infrastructure, economy, water, and agriculture. A few of those threats include droughts that are conducive to the increased wildfires of California, sea-level rise that we see evidence of along U.S. coastal cities’ shrinking coastlines, and the increase of storms experienced across the country.

When some think of climate change they do not see it as the big threat that it has become. Instead, they view it as just an increase in temperature and sea-level rise if they even believe it as such. The more you research the more you learn that the threats are much larger than that. Many effects of climate change act as ripples leading from one severe weather condition to another. For instance, the increase in the Earth’s temperature can be linked to the increase in storms. Studies show that precipitation is increasing east of the U.S. continental divide as a result of an increase in atmospheric water vapor content and warming due to climate change. These storms can cause extensive damage to coastal infrastructure and result in major changes to the U.S.’s water quality. Damages resulting from storms that can exceed 252 km/h, can lead to storm surges, heavy rainfall, flooding, and stormwater runoff that are caused by hurricanes, cyclones and tornadoes. According to scientific analysis over the last 30 years, it is expected that storms will become more intense and more frequent. Studies show that parts of the U.S. (mainly the middle west) have had severe storm frequencies that are increasing as a result of convection development, which is the action of warm air rising and cold air sinking (convection) that plays a key role in the formation of severe thunderstorms.

With an increase of storms and an increase in precipitation we can expect an increase in flooding in some parts of the U.S. Flooding due to high tides and storm surges caused by severe storms are becoming more common among many coastal areas and is projected to become more frequent and severe as sea-levels continue to rise.

While there are areas of the U.S. that are experiencing an increase in H2O in the atmosphere, there are places like California that are experiencing droughts. From 2017 to 2018 Northern California’s wet season was drier than normal with temperatures above normal. The lack of precipitation caused an above normal carryover from the previous wet year. With increased temperatures, fuels and people have also been contributing factors for California’s recent wildfires where seasonal moisture to grow fuels have resulted in longer and more extreme fire seasons. The wildland-urban interface has increased in the past few decades causing people to be placed in fire-prone areas. California’s annual temperatures have been increasing substantially and are expected to continue to increase.

Severe storms, sea level rise, droughts, and flooding are some of the biggest threats that the U.S. is currently facing. Studies show that these threats will only continue to increase in intensity and frequency if we do not continue to reduce the amount of CO2 we emit into the Earth’s atmosphere.  As we have seen, the increase in the Earth’s temperature causes a rippling effect where the changes in the environment cause natural disasters that can lead to other natural disasters. The effects of some of these natural disasters threaten the U.S., its people, economy, waters, and infrastructure. Knowing this, one concludes that maybe the U.S.’s biggest threat isn’t other countries or an economic crisis, but the environmental effects of climate change.

Works Cited

Brown, Tim, et al. “The Extreme 2018 Northern California Fire Season.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 101, no. 1, 2020, doi:10.1175/bams-d-19-0275.1.

Molina, Maria J., and John T. Allen. “Regionally-Stratified Tornadoes: Moisture Source Physical Reasoning and Climate Trends.” Weather and Climate Extremes, Elsevier, 1 Feb. 2020, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212094719301781.

Moore, Frances C., and Nick Obradovich. “Using Remarkability to Define Coastal Flooding Thresholds.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 4 Feb. 2020, www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-13935-3.

Wachnicka, Anna, et al. “Major 2017 Hurricanes and Their Cumulative Impacts on Coastal Waters of the USA and the Caribbean.” Estuaries and Coasts, vol. 43, no. 5, 2020, pp. 941–942., doi:10.1007/s12237-020-00702-7.


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