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Heatwaves, Storms, and Smoke... Oh My!

By Eco-Rep Bailey Adams

Climate scientists are already warning that 2023 could be the hottest year on record globally. This summer has been plagued by heatwaves and extreme storms, coupled with the poor air quality that continues to linger from the Canadian wildfires.

After what was a dry spring in our region and a multitude of intense rain storms this summer, there is a concern for what hurricane season will hold for us this year. Extreme weather looks to be on the rise.

Intense summer rain storms have been dropping large amounts of rain in shorter amounts of time. These quick and heavy storms cause major flooding because the water cannot be absorbed into the soil quickly enough. With increased infrastructure such as large buildings and parking lots, soil that would soak up the water is replaced with impervious surfaces, and the water often has nowhere to go. So much water in so little time leads to events of flash flooding, which is becoming more frequent and life-threatening with major storms.

In July, several lives were lost due to a quick flooding event in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, only about 20 minutes away from Rider University. These events are hitting close to home and are occurring with less warning than ever before.

Major storms may appear without much warning and it is never a good idea to drive during a flash flood event. Wait out the storm, avoid standing water, and listen to all weather advisory messages. Be prepared in your home with food, water, flashlights, and extra batteries.

Storm frequency and intensity are often reliant on the temperature of the surrounding air, as well as the temperature of the ocean water. With increasing temperatures globally, the weather is becoming more difficult to predict accurately, according to a study conducted by the Advancing Earth and Space Sciences.

Are more extreme storms just the new normal? This concept of a “new normal” has been thrown around in recent years regarding changing weather patterns relating to the overall effects of climate change. However, many scientists are arguing that it is unrealistic to call these patterns our “new normal” as they have emerged so rapidly, and our earth continues to warm, meaning we should expect even more change shortly. There is likely to be even more difficulty in predicting upcoming weather events, and major weather events could become increasingly more extreme. This is a frightening reality when thinking of drought conditions that may be faced in the future as just this June, one-fifth of the United States was living in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The record-breaking wildfires in Canada have been a big topic this summer, with our area of the United States receiving a great deal of smoke as a result. Of course, smoke has been a health concern for most of this summer season, and we have seen many air quality alerts issued by the National Weather Service. It is also an environmental concern as wildfires themselves release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas contributing to rising global temperatures. Fine particulate matter is also released by wildfires. The particulate matter is harmful to our health, and breathing it in can be the equivalent of harmful particulates from up to seven cigarettes in just one day.

Extreme weather conditions are likely to continue in our future, and while our ultimate goal would be to mitigate these effects, the reality is we all need to take new precautions to stay safe. New Jersey is still feeling the effects of the smoke from the Canadian wildfires, and until it clears up, it is advised that people do not stay outside for prolonged periods on days when the air quality is particularly poor or alerts are issued, especially if one belongs to an at-risk group such as the young, elderly, or those with asthma.

Practicing a sustainable lifestyle is a great way to do your part in the fight against global temperature rise, but we need to hold larger corporations accountable when they fall short. Signing petitions to see changes in your local community is a great way to get involved, as is voting for the change you wish to see and getting involved in your local government when possible.

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