Extreme weather in the USA: Apocalypse now

In the US state of Wisconsin, hailstones the size of chicken eggs fell from the sky earlier this week. In Death Valley, the temperature rose to 50.6 degrees Celsius. The largest wildfire in the state’s history raged in New Mexico. There’s a fire in California and Arizona anyway. A little further north, in Washington and Oregon, it rained an ocean within days. Yellowstone National Park, mostly in Wyoming, was forced to close earlier this week after record rains caused rivers to swell and roads to be washed away. The park was evacuated and around 10,000 people had to leave the area.

Extreme weather phenomena occur again and again in the USA, but the country has rarely experienced such a concentration. The list goes on. A heat warning was in effect for around 120 million Americans this week. According to the National Weather Service, heat is the number one killer of weather in the United States. In Phoenix it was 45.6 degrees. In Las Vegas, the temperature rose to 42.8 degrees. This is extremely unusual so early in the season.

As near the end of the world

At the same time, violent storms sweep through the country. Hundreds of thousands of people in Indiana and Ohio were left without power as a result of severe thunderstorms. Those with a bit of metaphysics might be tempted to see a hint from the heavens in this abnormal accumulation of extreme weather. In Britain, it’s considered good manners to chat casually about various types of drizzle and about “heat waves” that have “broken” the 20 degree mark. In the United States every conversation about the weather these days sounds like doomsday is near.

According to the weather service, several phenomena are currently coming together. In the northwest of the country, a so-called “atmospheric flow” has developed, hence the heavy rain. In addition, a heat dome has formed over Tennessee, which affects the weather in large parts of the south. Since dry air is moving southwest from Tennessee, there are also fires and storms there. According to the weather service, it is a pattern that bears the rather apocalyptic name “Ring of Fire”.

34 percent say they are not concerned

American society is divided in many ways, but there is surprising unity on at least some aspects of climate change. According to a survey by Yale University in February this year, 72 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, while only 14 percent of those polled disagree. However, 34 percent said they were not concerned about climate change, and 54 percent said they were not personally concerned.

It’s unlikely, but possible, that the past week of extremes will change that perception. And if not, the really hot months are only just beginning, and the Weather Service is predicting that 14 to 21 hurricanes will sweep the country during the storm season, which lasts from early June to late November.

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