The Summer of 2012 Was The Summer Of Extremes

BY ON August 31, 2012

Young child looking up in sun-drenched field of grass

Ah, the end of summer. Such a bittersweet time. The bustle of back to school, the sun setting earlier, the endings and beginnings. Around here the end of summer means saying goodbye to the fleeting Vermont sweet season. Swimming in ponds and lakes, the weather’s rarely too hot, refreshing cool nights and bright, sunny days.

Except that in Vermont, we had a dryer and warmer summer than we have had in years. But we are the lucky ones, because all over our country, particularly in the Midwest, this summer has yield drought like conditions with far reaching effects.

In fact, well over half of our country experienced significant drought conditions this summer. According to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor, and the National and Information Service, about 63 percent of the contiguous U.S. was classified as experiencing moderate to exceptional drought at the end of July.

Drought yields many consequences, such as water use restrictions, which are becoming more common, and other safety and animal welfare concerns, such as more hungry bears. Farmers took a direct hit, with the USDA declaring thousands of counties natural disaster areas, and rising food prices.

And how about fire? Surely you have heard about the barrage of wild fires scouring the west this summer. According to the Huffington Post, Colorado had the worst wildfire season in a decade. Utah, Montana, Arizona, and most recently Idaho have all suffered significant wildfires this summer which have threatened communities, homes, air quality and ecosystems.

Did you know that this July was the hottest on record in the United States in all 118 years of record keeping? And that’s not all. According to the Washington Post:

“Not only was the month of July unrivaled for its hot temperatures across the nation, but so too were the first seven months of the calendar year and the last 12 months. In fact, the last four 12-month periods have each successively established new records for the warmest period of that length.”

Excessive heat can have tragic consequences too. This summer it killed at least 74, including fourteen children left in cars unattended.

Excessive heat. Wildfires. Drought. What do these have in common?

Jonathan Overpeck, a professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, made waves when he told a reporter with the Associate Press:

“This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about…This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level.”

Warning indeed. Did anyone listen? Have you heard the presidential candidates discuss climate change recently? No. Why not?

Many scientists and journalists have sounded the alarm about this summer’s extreme weather as a sign of what is to come, and worsen, if we do nothing to control global warming.

And yet we are left with more extreme weather affecting every aspect of our lives: our safety, our homes, our food supply, our health, our businesses, our ecosystems and our children.

The summer of 2012. Will people look back and say, Why didn’t they heed the warnings?


TOPICS: Colorado, Heat and Extreme Weather, Science, Texas, Utah, Vermont