New study finds extreme weather events become normalized in a few years
Decreasing shorelines, record October warmth and a severe drought that anchored itself across Southeast Alaska in 2018 continue to underscore that the Arctic is ground zero for climate change.
Last year, NOAA released its Arctic Report Card on how the Arctic is warming twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe. It highlights the importance and role of the Arctic in climate change and extreme weather around the world.
Now, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences points to an alarming social trend. Researchers looked at over 2 billion Twitter posts to understand the public's perception of climate change. Through sifting and analyzing the posts, researchers concluded that people tend to generally accept extreme weather as normal within two years — the amount of time researchers concluded it takes people to base their idea of normal.
Frances C. Moore, lead author of the study from University of California-Davis, stated that although we are experiencing historically extreme conditions, they don't feel particularly unusual since people tend to forget what happened just a few years ago.
It's best described using the classic metaphor of the boiling frog, which cautions people to be aware of gradual change that can eventually have dire consequences. The metaphor states that if a frog were placed into boiling water, it will jump out. However, if the frog is put in warm water which slowly boils, it will not notice the danger and slowly boil to death. Climate change activists have embraced this metaphor to point to how a changing climate is viewed in our society.
Moore said that although the tweets pointed to extreme weather still making people miserable, users eventually stopped talking about it and got used to change they'd prefer to avoid.
Just here in Alaska, significant changes have been seen and felt since the turn of the century. Data provided by the National Weather Service shows that out of the top 10 warmest years on record, seven have occurred since the year 2000.
The most recent was 2018, when Anchorage recorded an average temperature of 40.5 degrees, the second warmest year on record. Although each person is going to perceive temperatures in a different manner, you can easily see the warming climate in the retreating glaciers that are reshaping the land and leaving behind glacial silt, along with many invasive species that now call Southcentral home.
As the climate continues to change, not only will we continue to see extreme events like we are currently experiencing in Anchorage, but researchers of the study believe that the general public may not be able to distinguish them, as the events become normalized. As this occurs the authors of the study believe this will have potential implications for both the acceptance of global warming and public pressure for policies.
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