Hi! Thanks for asking such a great question.
I’m glad you recognize that there is a difference
between extreme weather and climate change.
Many people think that weather and climate are the
same thing, but I see that you know better.
While weather is something we deal with on a
day-to-day basis, climate is actually the average
weather over a very long period of time. Most
scientists consider climate the average weather
over a 30 year period! So when it is warm outside
one day and cold the next we don’t call it climate
change, instead we just consider it normal changes
in weather. Even though weather changes all the
time and we even have extreme weather, like
floods, if you look at the average temperatures
and rainfall over a 30 year period you can get an
idea of the global climate.
This brings me to your question
on how extreme weather affects climate change. In
fact, it is climate change that affects extreme
weather rather than the other way around. A
prediction of climate change is that extreme
weather events – such as floods, droughts, and
even blizzards – will happen more often. Many
people point to big storms with a lot of freezing
or snow as evidence that climate change isn’t
happening, but in fact even big blizzards and hail
storms agree with scientist’s predictions for
climate change. When CO2 and other
greenhouse gases are emitted into our atmosphere,
our planet warms up. This can happen in many ways
but a major way this happens is from humans
burning fossil fuels like gasoline. When our
planet is warmer our atmosphere is able to hold
more moisture, which results in more extreme
rainstorms or blizzards. This is because when
warm air rises up, the moisture in the air cools
down and turns into raindrops (or sometimes snow)
and if there is more moisture in the air then more
rain or snow will fall when the air cools down.
So, you may now be wondering how climate change
could also cause extreme droughts. If we have
more moisture in the air, why are so many states,
including California, experiencing droughts?
This is because as warm, moist air rises it dumps
a lot of rain and then continues traveling towards
the poles of the Earth as very dry air. This air
then sinks back down in a region we call the
subtropics – California and much of the Southern
United States lie within the subtropics. When
the dry air sinks in these areas it causes
droughts Warmer global temperatures cause
these dry winds to extend over a larger area than
during cold times, meaning that droughts are more
widespread due to global warming.
Scientists now agree that although it’s hard to
point to any specific extreme weather event and
say that it’s because of global climate change,
that overall extreme weather events are
happening more often, which is a result of climate
change. I hope this answers your question!
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