From a heat wave down under to a cold snap in North America, UBC’s Simon Donner on extreme weather
The latest series of extreme weather events around the world are not abnormal, says UBC geography professor Simon Donner.
“Broken records are a normal thing in a stable climate,” he says. “Atmosphere and oceans dynamics mean that low and high surface air temperature records are broken in some locations every year.”
But Donner’s research shows that extreme weather significantly impacts people’s attitudes towards climate change. His 2013 study found that public and media skepticism about global warming increases during cold snaps and concern about climate change grows during hot spells.
“A cold winter is unfortunately enough to make some people, including many newspaper editors and opinion leaders, doubt the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue of global warming,” he says.
Donner says the polar vortex that gripped parts of North America earlier this month is not uncommon.
“What today seems remarkable and unprecedented was actually not that unusual in past winters. We just have short memories.”
Read Simon Donner’s blog here. For more on Donner’s research, read “Blowing hot and cold: U.S. belief in climate change shifts with weather.”