These days, few phrases are as politically charged as “climate change” and “global warming.”
They conjure up conservative or liberal partisanship and politicians use them with personal gain in mind.
To help people hear what they want to say, some scientists are steering away from this language and focusing more on what actually is happening and the resulting costs.
Good for them if this strategy helps people listen and be more open-minded, but the conversation must at times include causes of climate (oops)… the changes occurring all around us and how they should be addressed.
Ocean temperatures and currents determine global temperatures and rainfall. The oceans absorb much of the CO2 produced by human activities and most of the sun’s extra heat trapped by increases in greenhouse gases. As more of this energy and heat builds up in the oceans, the climate becomes warmer and weather events more extreme worldwide.
This is adversely impacting agriculture, water supplies, native plants and wildlife and, ultimately, human health.
Scientists say the warmer temperatures are helping non-native plant and insect species prosper at the expense of native species in Wilkes County and elsewhere in the nation. This disrupts long-standing food chains in the wild.
July 2019 was the hottest July and the hottest month on record globally. Scientists say that as long as the world keeps emitting greenhouse gases at current rates, temperatures will keep rising and other weather extremes will continue.
Wilkes County has been experiencing weather extremes for several years, including record precipitation most recently. This could easily shift to drought, as was the case here just a few years ago.
North Wilkesboro had unprecedented street flooding when heavy rain related to Tropical Storm Michael overwhelmed storm water systems in October 2018. While in Wilkes on a tour of Michael-related flood damage in area counties, Gov. Roy Cooper said it showed the need to build stronger and smarter with more resilient infrastructure and measures that divert floodwaters due to the likelihood of such events occurring more often.
North Wilkesboro had a record 75.80 inches of precipitation in 2018. The old record was 66.53 and the annual average is about 50 inches. The year ended with a December record 19 or more inches of snow in two days.
Unusually large amounts of rain within brief periods damaged property earlier this year, including in June with flooding in western Wilkes. A new high level of W. Kerr Scott Reservoir was set then when the dam held back water to prevent flooding downstream.
A few weeks later, older residents said floodwaters were the worst they ever saw in certain places from a similar rain event in a smaller area of southern Wilkes. The Town of Wilkesboro experienced costly damage from Cub Creek’s high waters then, prompting town officials to see this as a new reality and investigate preventive measures.
North Wilkesboro received 40.61 inches of precipitation in the first seven months of this year and the record for that period is 42.36 inches in 2003. The average is 29.47 inches.
On top of everything in recent years, for the first time on record a tornado ripped through Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro in October 2017.
Obviously, the weather is becoming more extreme.