ASHEVILLE, NC – December 25, 2022 – Asheville just had the coldest Christmas season in 8 years. Subfreezing temperatures have caused our water pipes to burst and our homeless population to move to indoor shelters. Health problems can be averted like hypothermia and frostbite, but basic sanitation can be affected by having no running water at home. Even if it is colder than average in Asheville, the mean world temperature is probably warmer than the historic average. Record high temperatures are now twice as frequent as record low temperatures compared to the 1950s when they occurred in equal frequency.
Tropical storms and hurricanes brought high winds and heavy rainfall to North Carolina in 2021 and 2022. Following Tropical Storm Fred in August 2021, floods damaged homes and businesses in Canton. This year, Hurricane Ian caused power outages, wet roads and flooding in central North Carolina. Driving on wet roads resulted in 3 fatalities; one person died due to carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator running in a closed garage.
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700’s, the burning of fossil fuel has contributed to increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has nearly doubled. These gases settle in the lower atmosphere, absorb infrared energy from the earth and reflect it back to the earth’s surface. This is known as the greenhouse gas effect. Heat is trapped in the atmosphere near the earth, warming the planet.
Climate is the average weather in a particular region over a longer time frame than the weather. Climate change refers to the historic differences in mean air temperature, total precipitation and mean ocean temperature. These changes can result in environmental impacts like heat waves, coastal flooding, extreme precipitation events and severe draughts. Health impacts from climate change can include more infectious disease, physical injury and mental health stressors.
Extreme weather events can also include periods of very cold weather because global warming can change the wind patterns around the Earth. The polar vortex is circular bands of wind near the poles that is above the jet stream and are strongest during the winter months. It keeps the underlying cold air over the poles. Breakdown of the polar vortex from arctic warming allows cold air to escape and flow southward with the jet stream. Therefore, a warmer Arctic can drive more extreme weather events throughout our planet, including here in Asheville.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com