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Extreme weather: why is it worse than ever before?

By Rider University Eco-Rep, Ashlyn Whiteside


Originally Published: September 29, 2021


On Sept. 1, not long after some students had returned to Rider, cars, basements and entire highways were submerged with rainwater. Senior musical theater majors Theresa Hall and Andrew Smith reported how scared they were when they got stuck in the flooded streets of Ewing, New Jersey.


Hall said, “I’ve never seen so much rain come down so fast. It was no joke.”


According to NJ.com, the tropical storm blew in with mass amounts of rain and tornadoes that touched down in multiple counties lasting for extensive lengths with record strength. If you receive Rider alerts, then you are aware that a tornado was reported in Lawrence Township and students were told to stay indoors and shelter in place—a very scary experience for those on campus.


Just this past week, a storm shut down the power on campus with heavy rain, lightning and thunder, leaving students wondering if evening classes would take place. While storms are normal and extreme weather has been affecting the Earth since before humans walked on it, the frequency of extreme weather events is on the rise. The severity has dramatically increased as well.


According to Carbon Brief, a UK-based website that focuses on climate science, studies are showing that “human-caused climate change has altered the likelihood or severity of an extreme weather event in 79% of cases studied.”


Have you ever wondered how humans affect the weather? The answer is more complex than day-to-day weather, and the focus should center on the long-term impacts of climate change.


As human activity causes rising sea levels, an increase in emissions and warming of the atmosphere, the global sea temperatures have also risen. As the ocean temperatures rise, more water vapor is held in the air which makes regular storms turn into bigger, more destructive storms by pouring out large amounts of water at a rapid pace, more than the ground, rivers and streams can handle.


While New Jersey has always been susceptible to flooding, replacing old and outdated infrastructure of storm drains has remained a low priority. After Governor Phil Murphy visited Central Jersey following Hurricane Henri, he said, “Every state, every country at this point, is going to have to tune up the playbook because we’re in uncharted waters.”


Like the storm on Sept. 1, the extreme weather events are not going to get better unless there are dramatically increased efforts toward stopping the adverse effects of climate change. In addition to storms with increased flooding, climate change is responsible for many extreme weather events like heat waves, drought, wildfires, coral bleaching, ecosystem function and more. A study from Carbon Brief found, “Of the 132 attribution studies that have looked at extreme heat around the world, 122 (92%) found that climate change made such an event more likely or more severe.”


These events aren’t going to get better on their own. As senior musical theater major Ricky Cardenas said, “Witnessing the extreme weather changes during storm Ida was a huge wake-up call regarding climate change and the environmental issues that are going to progressively get worse if people don’t make changes in their everyday habits and lifestyle.”


Individually, there are several ways to reduce your carbon footprint, including driving less, carpooling, limiting meat consumption, wasting less, recycling more and using heat, lights and appliances more consciously in your living space.


How can you get involved? Join the Green Team to help on campus, and get involved in local communities like the Sunrise Movement and other student-centered networks to learn more and to help the causes that speak to you. Although climate change isn’t reversible, we can slow the climb to avoid disaster. Get involved and do your part or New Jersey’s new normal might be underwater.

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