“Unprecedented”. 96 Percent of American Counties Have Recently Seen a Weather Extreme.

November 14, 2015


Click for Interactive map

One reason that polls have been swinging away from climate denial and toward the need for action on climate, is that more and more Americans have witnessed first hand an event that they find far enough out of the ordinary so as to be convincing.

Environment America:

WASHINGTON, DC – Ninety-six percent of Americans live in a county hit by at least one weather-related disaster in the last five years, according to a new interactive map using federal government data. Scientists say global warming is already exacerbating some extreme weather events and their impacts.

“We used to think of climate change as a problem that would happen someday, somewhere,” said Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions program. “But sadly, our extreme weather map shows that global warming is happening now, and it’s already hitting close to home.”

Since September 2010, weather-related disasters — from Superstorm Sandy to the drought still ravaging California — were declared in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C, according to the online map created by Environment America and Frontier Group.

Scientists predict unchecked global warming will increase the severity or the frequency of many extreme weather events. Hurricanes are likely to be more powerful and deliver more rainfall because of warmer temperatures, while in some regions the potential for drought will increase.

“Just as steroids make a baseball player stronger, climate change is already exacerbating many of our weather extremes,” said Texas Tech researcher Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, who reviewed the fact sheet released along with today’s map. “And as the planet continues to warm, we’re increasing the risks associated with extreme weather.”

Scientists point out that small, incremental changes over time can suddenly become important when a strong weather event hits a sensitive area. For instance, gradual sea level rise, while not noticeable from day to day, comes into play when a Hurricane like Sandy overwhelms infrastructure built with lower levels in mind.

A storm like Sandy might not have been nearly so disastrous 60 years ago – but that last 8 inches of sea level rise is what overwhelmed lower Manhattan.

In addition to statistics for recent weather-related disasters declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the map includes case studies and personal stories from Americans impacted by extreme weather events across the country.

“The 2015 Memorial Day Weekend flood of the Blanco River was an unprecedented, historic, catastrophic event,” began the story from Scott from Wimberley, Texas, where deadly floods struck last spring. “I speak for many in saying that we’ve lost many personal possessions that can not be replaced; family photos, baby books, family heirlooms, furniture, a lot of our family history…gone forever.”

“The drought in California has hit every single resident hard. Living in Northern California, my family is one of those families struggling to reduce water from being wasted,” wrote Julia from Kensington, California. “I now also track the path of wildfires in Northern California hoping they can be stopped. Yet I watch them creep ever closer to my home and family. It’s hard to watch the state I love go through all of this at once.”

The analysis comes just weeks before President Obama and other world leaders convene in Paris to forge an international agreement to slash global warming emissions. More than 150 countries making up more than 90 percent of the world’s climate pollution have already pledged reductions.

The map is also being unveiled as U.S. Senate leaders seek to undo the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Obama’s plan to address climate change, and as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds public hearings on implementing the plan.

The recent spike in awareness of climate has a lot to do with citizen’s up-close experience with extreme events.


Three-quarters of Americans now accept the scientific consensus on climate change, the highest level in four years of surveys conducted by the University of Texas at Austin. The biggest shocker is what’s happening inside the GOP. In a remarkable turnabout, 59 percent of Republicans now say climate change is happening, up from 47 percent just six months ago. 


Gerald Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan:

1. More Americans than at any time since 2008 indicate that there is solid evidence of increasing temperatures on Earth with 70% of residents now maintaining that view. Similarly, a record low number of Americans (16%) say that there is not evidence of global warming.
2. A majority of Republicans (56%) now believe that there is solid evidence of global warming, up from 47% a year ago, joining solid majorities of Democrats (79%) and Independents (69%).
3. Americans who believe there is evidence of global warming are also increasingly confident in their belief, with a record 65% saying they are “very confident” in their appraisal.
4. Severe drought across many parts of the United States has become the factor most cited by Americans as having a “very large” effect on their position that global warming is occurring. A record 61% of Americans who indicate there is evidence of global warming said
severe droughts were having a very large effect on their belief.
5. In previous NSEE surveys, large majorities of American who do not believe there is evidence of global warming have pointed to local weather observations as the basis for their position. In the Fall 2015 survey, however, more than a third (34%) of those doubtful of global warming said local weather observation has “no effect” on their views about climate change, the highest percentage in the history of the NSEE.

A helpful reader (I have many) sends this:

An incomplete list of the word “Unprecedented:” found in news stories when in relation to weather and or biological events for just the first two weeks of November 2015
Unprecedented Toxic algal bloom – domoic acid neurotoxin
Yemen’s Unprecedented Cyclone Double Whammy
Unprecedented Citrus Crop Decline In The Sunshine State
Unprecedented Rainfall Event In Egypt
Heat Wave In South Africa
Subtropical Butterfly New To Britain
Climate Change May Represent Unprecedented Risks To Portfolios (Commenters heads explode)
Floods In Pakistan

8 Responses to ““Unprecedented”. 96 Percent of American Counties Have Recently Seen a Weather Extreme.”

  1. toddinnorway Says:

    Hi Peter,
    You present a solid and convincing case. But the true skeptics really only care about the effect of climate change on their money and assets. The global insurance industry has a lot to say about the data and studies you present here. I suggest you profile what views and conclusion are on climate change by the industry which lives or dies by their assessment of the risks-the insurance industry.

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  6. […] distortion are losing their effectiveness, as more and more Americans experience the effects of a climate altered world first hand. It’s time to stop denying the science, and begin discussing the […]

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