02 October, 2014
As the world's population grows, extreme weather conditions affect more and more people. The weather events may include flooding, powerful storms and droughts – or lack of rain. Many scientists are predicting that, while the number of storms may not increase, their strength will.
The issue is of interest to officials with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Los Angeles, California. The aquarium is using a federal government program to help educate people about the effects of extreme weather.
Mark Jackson is a weather expert with NOAA -- the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Extreme weather is the norm across the globe. There are certain things such as heat waves, such as droughts, and in some parts of the globe heavy precipitation, that we are seeing an increase in these events."
But other scientists say extreme weather is here to stay. Glen MacDonald is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"Places which are dry are probably going to get dryer globally. Places which are already wet are probably going to get wetter. They're going to get the precipitation we're missing out on."
Mark Jackson says the number of hurricanes and typhoons has not increased over the past 50 years. But he says those storms have become more powerful, and he believes that will continue.
Professor MacDonald is careful about predicting extreme weather events. He says scientists have just 150 years of weather records to examine.
"In terms of attributing, in terms of general hurricane system, the general flood system, the general drought system that precipitation events have become more extreme or something like that I just don't think we have the statistics to show that generalization is true right now."
Scientists do agree that weather events such as storms and droughts will continue to happen. They say reducing the production of greenhouse gases could help, but that takes time. Studies have linked such gases to rising temperatures in earth's atmosphere.
A way of predicting weather for a period longer than 14 days could help reduce the costly effects of extreme weather. Mr. Jackson says NOAA is developing a program that he hopes will be successful in predicting the weather between 15 and 30 days into the future.
"It's very possible and it's something that can be a very powerful tool to help us better adapt and be prepared for these extreme events."
Jerry Schubel is the president of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Los Angeles. He says people must understand the seriousness of extreme weather, and take action when such weather is predicted.
"Improved forecast and longer warning times are of little value unless they are heeded."
NOAA has developed an educational program it calls "Science on a Sphere." The federal agency hopes the program will help people better understand the environment and the planet, including storms, climate change, and ocean temperature. It shows videos on a large model of the Earth.
Mr. Schubel says severe weather affects everyone everywhere.
"There's no place in the world that is immune."
More than 100 museums and other buildings around the world are using the program to educate people about extreme weather. People in Europe, Asia and North and South America are learning about the environment and how to live on our quickly-changing planet.
I'm Jonathan Evans
*This story was reported by correspondent Elizabeth Lee in Los Angeles. Christopher Cruise wrote it for Learning English. George Grow edited it.
Words in This Story
extreme – adj. more than the usual or accepted
geography – n. an area of study that deals with the location of countries, cities, rivers, mountains and lakes
production/produce – v. to make; to create; to cause something to be; to manufacture
prediction/predict – v. to say what one believes will happen in the future.
environment – n. all surrounding things, conditions and influences that affect life; the natural world of land, sea, air, plants and animals