12/21/2012 3:33:12 PM

Is Extreme Weather the New Normal?

Disaster after disaster characterized 2012 weather as the world continues to warm. Arctic sea ice losses plunged 18% below previous record lows. Superstorm Sandy flooded New York streets. And weather extremes from droughts to floods to fires caused misery around the globe. In short, the weather in 2012 was deadly, costly, record-breaking—and just what climate scientists predicted would happen without action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"The normal has changed, I guess," U.S. National Weather Service acting director Laura Furgione told the Associated Press. "The normal is extreme."

So far, 2012 is shaping up to be the hottest in recorded history in the U.S., with records set in 34 states, and one of the hottest globally.

"Take any one of these events in isolation, it might be possible to yell 'fluke!' Take them collectively, it provides confirmation of precisely what climate scientists predicted would happen decades ago if we proceeded with business-as-usual fossil fuel burning, as we have," Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said in an email. "And this year especially is a cautionary tale. What we view today as unprecedented extreme weather will become the new normal in a matter of decades if we proceed with business-as-usual."

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