Woman holding her dog away from a wildfire.

David Swanson/Reuters

5 Big Questions About Extreme Weather

Disasters caused by weather seem to be happening more often. Here’s what you need to know.

As You Read: According to scientists, how are humans affecting Earth’s climate? 

1. What's with all the wild weather?

In August, Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana. It was one of the most powerful storms to hit the area in the past 150 years.

Meanwhile, Western states saw high heat and a long drought. That helped spark record wildfires.

Most climate scientists agree that weather events like these are linked to climate change. That’s the gradual change in Earth’s temperature and weather. 

In August, Hurricane Ida slammed into Louisiana. It was one of the most powerful storms to hit the area in the past 150 years.

Meanwhile, Western states saw high heat and a long drought. That helped spark record wildfires.

Most climate scientists agree that weather events like these are connected to climate change. That’s the gradual change in Earth’s temperature and weather.

2. Is extreme weather new?

No. Floods and dry spells have been around for as long as people can remember. But scientists say these events are becoming more common.

Experts think this is largely because of Earth’s rising temperatures caused by climate change. 

No. Floods and dry spells have been around for a long time. But scientists say these events are becoming more common.

Experts think this is mostly because of Earth’s rising temperature. They say it is caused by climate change.

Galushko Sergey/Shutterstock.com

Lake Oroville, California, in 2017 (top); Lake Oroville during this summer's drought (bottom)

3. What causes climate change?

It's a natural process that's happened throughout history. But most scientists agree that humans play a part in today’s warmer temperatures.

To make energy, we burn fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include coal and oil. They are the remains of plants and animals that lived long ago. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases. Experts say the increase of these gases has caused Earth’s temperature to rise over time. 

It’s a natural process that’s happened throughout history. But most scientists agree that humans play a part in today’s warmer temperatures. 

To make energy, we burn fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include coal and oil. They are the remains of plants and animals that lived long ago. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases. Experts say the increase of these gases has caused Earth’s temperature to rise over time.

4. So does that mean greenhouse gases are all bad?

No! Without greenhouse gases, Earth would be too cold for any life to survive. The gases, such as carbon dioxide, act like a blanket. They trap some of the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, or layer of air around Earth. This process is called the greenhouse effect. 

No! Without greenhouse gases, Earth would be too cold for any life to survive. The gases, such as carbon dioxide, act like a blanket. They trap some of the sun’s heat in the atmosphere. That’s the layer of air around Earth. This process is called the greenhouse effect.

5. How can climate change cause both droughts AND floods?

As temperatures rise, more water from Earth’s surface evaporates, or enters the air. That extra water causes heavier rain and flooding in some areas. Other areas get very little rain, causing long droughts.

Scientists say reducing the amount of greenhouse gases could help reduce the effects of climate change. 

As temperatures rise, more water from Earth’s surface evaporates. That means it enters the air. That extra water causes heavier rain and flooding in some areas. Other areas get very little rain. This causes long droughts.

Scientists say cutting the amount of greenhouse gases could help lessen the effects of climate change.

CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP via Getty Images

A boy pushes his bike down a flooded street.

1. Why does the author mention the drought in Western states?

2. According to most scientists, what part have people played in today’s warmer temperatures?

3. What is the greenhouse effect?

1. Why does the author mention the drought in Western states?

2. According to most scientists, what part have people played in today’s warmer temperatures?

3. What is the greenhouse effect?

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