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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Climate models predicted extreme weather fluctuations. Can the damage be reversed?

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William Brangham:

Scientists have linked extreme weather fluctuations, from heat waves to torrential rains, to climate change, and these extremes are not confined to Europe.

Last month, ground temperatures in the Arctic Circle reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Much of the Western United States is suffering through a severe drought, which has provided ready tinder for the wildfires that have broken out especially early this year.

And for the first time in recorded history, deforestation and fires in the Amazon, coupled with warmer temperatures, are causing parts of the rain forest to now spit out more carbon dioxide than it absorbs. Scientists fear this reversal could be a tipping point, where one of the Earth’s best ways of storing massive amounts of carbon is now becoming a carbon emitter.

And joining me now is Gavin Schmidt. He’s a climatologist and serves as NASA’s senior climate adviser.

Gavin Schmidt, great to have you back on the “NewsHour.”

We’re seeing this devastation and the flooding in Europe and also here in the U.S. The West is baking with this drought and these wildfires. These are the things that climate models have always predicted would happen, right, more and more of these extreme fluctuations.

Director Gavin Schmidt, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies: So, climate models have been predicting that the globe as a whole would get warmer and, along with that, that we would be seeing more heat waves and we’d be seeing more intense precipitation and an exacerbation of drought signals, particularly in places like the Southwest or in the Mediterranean region, where you’re seeing a lot more evaporative demand taking the water out of the soil, making the droughts that are caused by a lack of rainfall more serious for the people on the ground.

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