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Extreme weather fueled by climate change hit 4 in 10 Americans where they lived in 2021

Extreme weather fueled by climate change hit 4 in 10 Americans where they lived in 2021

Raging wildfires exacerbated by drought in the West; severe downpours across the Midwest, Northeast and South; deadly heat waves in the Pacific Northwest; hurricanes that unleashed destruction from the Gulf Coast up to New England: 2021 was a year when it became impossible for many Americans to ignore the extreme weather fueled by climate change.

More than 4 in 10 U.S. residents live in a county that was affected by those weather disasters this past year, according to an analysis by the Washington Post — and more than 80 percent found themselves sweltering in abnormally high temperatures lasting more than a single day.

In June, when a heat dome descended over the Pacific Northwest, smashing high-temperature records in cities like Portland, Ore., and Seattle, millions of Americans suffered and hundreds died. An estimated 1 billion sea creatures were also killed along the coast of British Columbia, Canada, and endangered salmon populations were basically cooked alive in streams and rivers across the region.

Meanwhile, numerous examples of inundating rainfall across the country overwhelmed infrastructure, flooded basements and subways, left dozens dead, and racked up tens of billions of dollars in insurance losses. The key driver behind the sudden downpours is the fact that for every 1.8°F of warming, the Earth's atmosphere holds 7 percent more moisture. When conditions are right, that moisture is unleashed in the form of rainfall of unprecedented ferocity.

The cause of climate change is, of course, well established. Mankind's relentless pumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution has pushed global temperatures higher by 2.2°F. While that may sound like a small amount, the bulk of that warming has happened in recent decades, and its impacts have reverberated across the planet.


2021 was a year when extreme weather fueled by climate change became impossible for many Americans to ignore.
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