Casey Shea grew up on a farm near Duncannon but has been living in Brisbane, Australia, for the last 10 years. Like many others in Australia, Casey and her family were impacted by the wildfires.
“For about three weeks, we had a very thick smoke haze over the city, and it was recommended people not go outside,” Shea said.
When we think of climate change, the focus is on the big weather stories globally. The Australia wildfires are certainly one of them.
“The drought is the big reason for these bushfires,” Shea said. “There’s no moisture in the ground because of the drought, and the drought is attributed to climate change. These fires can spread much quicker.”
Droughts, wildfires and floods are not caused by climate change, but they are lasting longer and becoming more extreme due to our changing climate. Even locally, our weather team is noticing an increase in the frequency of records. For example, look at the number of monthly records that have ranked in the top 10 over the last two years.
In 2018, we experienced our warmest February on record, wettest July on record, and second wettest summer on record. In 2019, our third hottest July helped to bring our fifth warmest summer on record, and we started fall with the fourth wettest October.
The trends continue with our 10th warmest January to start 2020. To date, this is the second warmest February on record.
“We are already feeling the effects of climate change,” said Richard Alley, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University.
Alley has spent much of his career studying earth’s climate history through ice cores.
“Projections that were made when I was a student really have happened,” he said. “If anything, a little bit of it has arrived a little faster than we expected, but by in large, it’s been accurate.”
The last seven years now rank in the top 10 warmest years on record globally, with 2019 now the second warmest year on record. Not only do we need to recognize the increase in our records locally, but learn to adapt.
“We’re actually turning the big control knob on the Earth’s climate,” Alley said. “The thing that changed things in the past, and when it changed things in the past, it affected living creatures a lot.”