Radically changing weather patterns have been marked by torrential rains and catastrophic flooding, heavy snowfalls, extreme droughts, and devastating forest fires. Severe weather events have become increasingly regular, and many are beginning to view these extremes as normal under a changing climate. As earth’s climate continues to change, so will our perceptions of normal weather.
Although climate change is never tied to one specific weather event, it does influence weather. Climate change drives the environment that impacts storms and droughts, multiplying the intensity of weather events. In an article for Planet Ark, Deborah Zabarenko describes extreme weather as the “New Normal Climate.”
The article goes on to discuss the costs associated with the increase of climate driven extreme weather events. The City of Chicago’s 4,400-mile sewer system has been constructed over the past 150 years and is not equipped to handle the extreme storms and floods that are projected for the future. For the City, it is imperative to forecast future storms and floods.
The City estimates that it will cost between $690 million and $2.5 billion to cope with extreme weather for the remainder of this century. Homeowners and businesses will be faced with costs that far exceed the City’s estimate. Economic losses from natural disasters were $25 billion per year in the 1980s. Through the last decade, the cost has increased to $130 billion per year. As the global climate continues to change and weather becomes even more extreme, we can only expect these costs to increase.