Jesse Ferrell

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Is the Weather Getting Crazier?

October 9, 2012; 2:22 PM ET

I've had people ask me this question so many times it makes my head spin: "Isn't the weather getting crazier/stormier/weirder?" I usually reference scientific proof that it is not, but that doesn't answer the question: "Why does it seem like it is?" This Google Hangout video puts into words what I have often struggled to explain to the masses. Listen from 23:15 to 24:47; this may be the most important weather video you see this year.

What was said, was this, by Brad Panovich (Google+ Facebook Twitter), a great TV meteorologist from the Charlotte, N.C., area:

"One of the things I think we sometimes misunderstand about our weather and our climate is: we judge it based on our lifespan, which in the grand scheme of things is a very short period of time, and so we tend to judge weather phenomena based on our own personal experience, and I run into this a lot because I'm in an area of the country where it has a lot of transplants. A lot of people haven't lived here for longer than maybe 10 to 15 years, and they experience something new here; they think it's the first time it's ever happened because they're new to the area, when, in fact, it's because they've lived somewhere else their whole life, or they've never experienced this type of weather in this part of the country. So, I think your personal life experience sometimes gets related to weather, when, in fact, that's not always the case; sometimes things happen on longer time scales, which unfortunately for human beings we're not living that long to see."

I would add to that something that further complicates the problem: Most people can't even remember last year's weather, much less 10 or 100 years ago. Unless you're a meteorologist, you simply can't remember statistics about the weather. I can't tell you how many times people have said, "this is the warmest/snowiest/wettest season ever," and I've looked at historical weather stats to see that, in fact, it was more extreme 10 (or even a few) years ago. Brad went on to say:

"The other thing that is interesting about weather phenomena is that technology, in and of itself, allows us to visually observe weather a lot more frequently. I mean, just in my career, which is 15 years now, there's not a tornado, a hurricane, an earthquake, any phenomenon in the world that you don't see instantly on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, thanks to camera phones. That didn't happen five to 10 years ago, so people are seeing things more, in multimedia fashion, that they've never seen before, and if you're seeing it for the first time, you think, 'Wow. This -- you know, why is this happening?' Well, it happened all the time, it's just, you never saw it until now."

Technology is what's causing this to happen -- satellites are seeing hurricanes that would have gone unnoticed in the 1940s; NEXRAD radar tags tornadoes and an increase in spotters/chasers confirms more of them. People are able to document and share every extreme weather event. Climate change could cause tornadoes to increase, or it could cause them to decrease, but right now there's no proof that it's done either. Same for hurricanes.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.