The phrase “global warming” may sound fairly innocuous. A few degrees of temperature difference spread out over a century doesn't sound like much to many people, and the most compelling images associated with the phenomenon often involve glaciers and polar bears, which makes the threat seem distant. The reality, however, is that climate change is real, it's impacting the United States right now, and its effects will be magnified in the near future. According to a Harvard study, “climate change will affect every American in the coming decades.” In many cases, it already has.
Although it's unclear if there is a direct correlation between climate change and phenomena like tornados and thunderstorms, there is an established and undeniable link between rising temperatures and heat waves, increased precipitation, reduced snowpack, flooding, fires, and intense tropical storms and hurricanes. Some climate change-related weather patterns will hinder energy production while simultaneously placing a greater demand on energy providers. Others will bring massive storms to regions that were historically spared from their wrath, as New York and New Jersey experienced with Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
In other cases, extreme weather will trigger water shortages like the kind that have recently plagued the Southwest and much of the rest of the country. Food shortages likely will lead to higher prices at the grocery store, property values will decline in the hardest-hit areas, and millions of acres of forest will burn or die. It's important to note that these are not hypothetical situations. Every scenario just described has already happened, is happening, and/or is predicted to happen with greater frequency and ferocity in the near future.
Read on to learn about climate change and how it's affecting weather and other natural phenomena in the United States, which regions are being hit the hardest, and where these weather events are most prevalent.