Extreme weather and short-term memory
We had a bout of cold weather in Florida, and we’re over it—already. Temperatures are back up into the high 70s. This is exactly the kind of “winter” that we love. However, weather extremes come and go, and because we don’t miss them much when they’re gone, we fail to prepare for them and fail to understand them.
A science writer for the Associated Press wrote an article suggesting Americans are becoming weather wimps. Severe cold weather has become less frequent as the world warms, so when bitter cold spell hits, people think it’s unprecedented – even when it’s not. Until 1997, cold extremes happened every four years. With the world warming, cold extremes happen less frequently. Conversely, warm extremes are far more common.
NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center has Top 10 charts of climate extremes that reflect a 30-year average of temperatures and other climate conditions. Florida has a lock on the Top 10 list for hottest average temperatures over three decades, with seven locations on the list. Key West and Miami were ahead of Yuma, Arizona for heat records. Kind of surprising? Additionally, three of the top 10 locations for wettest climates are in Florida, which is no surprise. (Interesting that no Florida location is on the Most Humid list, though.)
Scientists say the recent big buzzing over the cold snap up north, weather extremes and climate change is due to this: People have short memories. And, that’s a huge problem. When extremes hit, people tend to forget they’ve been through it before. That means few people remember what to do or take the steps necessary to be ready for extremes. This, unfortunately, is not limited to the volatility of the weather, but of life in general.
I don’t really want to talk about weather risk and hurricanes this early in the year, so I won’t. But here’s a discussion question: Can having a short memory be the biggest risk of all?