When record heatwaves roll across the nation, wildfires torch a forest, or floods devastate a local community. You may wonder, was it caused by global warming or was it just a freak event?

This question is an area of intense scientific research, but scientists already know that global warming makes some weather events more likely or more severe.

An analogy is the use of steroids in major league baseball. Most major league players can naturally hit the ball out of the park — they’re world-class athletes.

But when a player starts taking illegal steroids, he gets bigger and stronger and starts hitting more home runs than he did before, because he’s “juiced” or amplified his system.

Scientists say that similarly, heat-trapping carbon pollution is like steroids — it “juices” or amplifies the climate system, making extreme weather events — like severe heatwaves, fires, and floods — more frequent or more intense. With continued global warming, we can expect more “weather on steroids” — with sometimes devastating consequences.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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Environment: Climate, Sustainability, Green
National Climatic Data Center (NOAA)

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is Editor of Yale Climate Connections. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as Assistant Director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission on Air Quality,...