Weird Weather = Climate Impacts

Survey says: Americans increasingly see weird weather as linked to climate change.
This post is 15 in the series: Talking Weather and Climate
Flood, KConnors, Morguefile.com

Flood, KConnors, Morguefile.com

Another installment of the Yale/George Mason research project on American climate attitudes (pdf) is out. The latest report is focused on how Americans are connecting changes in weather to global warming. It’s based on a survey fielded in early April.

The takeaways of note: Even though our memories appear to be short—the recency of events affects how we answer questions about weather—there’s an upward trend when it comes to associating weird weather of many different types, from many different seasons, with climate change. Increasingly, even if respondents hadn’t experienced harmful weather first hand, somebody close to them did. They are likely to have talked about it with friends and family, and many have thought about how to be prepared for weather disasters in their own local communities.

  • About six in ten Americans (58 percent) say “global warming is affecting weather in the United States.” In the West, 54 percent say this.
  • By contrast, a mere 7 percent say global warming is not affecting the weather and only 10 percent say that global warming isn’t happening. One in four (25 percent) don’t know or
    did not answer the question.
  • Many Americans believe global warming made recent extreme weather and climatic events “more severe,” specifically: 2012 as the warmest year on record in the United States (50 percent); the ongoing drought in the Midwest and the Great Plains (49 percent); Superstorm Sandy (46 percent); and Superstorm Nemo (42 percent).
  • About two out of three Americans say weather in the US has been worse over the past several years, up 12 percentage points since spring 2012. By contrast, fewer Americans say weather has been getting better over the past several years—only one in ten (11 percent), down 16 points compared to a year ago.
  • Many Americans (51 percent) also say weather in their local area has been worse over the past several years.
  • Overall, 85 percent of Americans report that they experienced one or more types of extreme weather in the past year, most often citing extreme high winds (60 percent) and extreme heat (51 percent).
  • Of those Americans who experienced extreme weather events in the past year, many say they were significantly harmed. Moreover, the number who have been harmed appears to be growing; up 5 percentage points since fall 2012 and 4 points since spring 2012. Reported harm from drought, heat and cold all increased over the prior year.
  • Most Americans (80 percent) have close friends or family members (not living with them) who experienced extreme weather events in the past year, including extreme high winds (47 percent), an extreme heat wave (46 percent), an extreme snowstorm (39 percent), extreme cold temperatures (39 percent), an extreme rainstorm (37 percent), or a drought (35 percent).
  • Over half of Americans (54 percent) believe it is “very” or “somewhat likely” that extreme weather will cause a natural disaster in their community in the coming year. Northeasterners (66 percent) and Southerners (57 percent) are the most likely to believe this. Notably, in the West, 59 percent feel that this is somewhat or very unlikely in their community.
  • Half of Americans (51 percent) say they have put a “great deal” or “some” thought into preparing for a natural disaster. Southerners (59 percent) and Northeasterners (57 percent) are the most likely to say this.
  • Americans who experienced an extreme weather event are most likely to have communicated about it person-to-person—either in person (89 percent) or on the phone (84 percent)—although some used social media, such as writing about the experience on Facebook (23 percent) or sharing a photo of the event or its aftermath using Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram (19 percent).
The data in the report are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,045
American adults, aged 18 and older, conducted from April 8 –15, 2013.

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