Global warming is believed by many scientists to increase the frequency and the intensity of many types of extreme weather. Extreme weather is weather which is unusually severe (e.g. when hot weather turns into a heat wave) or that occurs in an area where it’s unexpected (e.g. drought in a commonly wet area).
Higher temperatures due to global warming cause changes in global air circulation and ocean currents. This means that some areas will experience less rainfall than usual and others will receive more. Areas experiencing less rainfall may have more frequent and more severe droughts. South-Eastern Australia has been suffering through a long-term drought since 2002. This drought has had many social, environmental and economic impacts on the lives of citizens. E.g. over 10,000 farming families have been forced to leave the Murray-Darling Basin in the last five years because they can no longer make a living from agriculture; because of the dry soil. Also, food prices have increased dramatically as crops which rely on irrigation have been particularly badly affected; rice production has fallen to 2% of pre-drought totals, meaning that poorer families are struggling to afford food. However Australia is a MEDC therefore it’s more able to cope with the impacts of the drought.
Hurricanes are another increasing event due to global warming which impact heavily on human activity. Hurricanes can only form when the sea surface temperature is warmer than 26.5 degrees centigrade. Global warming increases ocean temperatures, making the conditions for a hurricane to form more frequent. Increased temperatures also increases the energy supply for hurricanes making them more severe. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the USA- a category 5 hurricane. It severely affected people’s livelihood especially in Louisiana where over 70,000 businesses were affected and 230,000 jobs were lost. Coupled with this was the destruction of the Rigolets Bridge in New Orleans and the Biloxi Bay Bridge on the US Route 90 highway, which heavily hindered people’s access to work, affecting the income of even more Americans. As well as this many people were left homeless because 300,000 homes were destroyed.
Higher temperatures due to global warming can increase the risk of flooding; either as an impact of an increased severity of storms and hurricanes or as an impact of melting ice caps causing sea level rise. The flooding in Carlisle January 8th 2005 caused many social and economic impacts on the population. 3000 people lost their homes and the repairs cost over £100 million, which disrupted lives as people had to live in temporary accommodation causing separation from community networks and problems with post. However Carlisle is a MEDC and has flood defences which protected 6000 properties. Although, despite this people lost their jobs as 350 businesses had to shut down as there was no electricity or telephone service e.g. United Biscuits, the largest employer in Carlisle, was flooded with 3m of water and 33 out of 1100 employees lost their jobs. The flooding also caused the failure of mobile networks and landlines which meant people were unable to call for assistance which particularly affected the ill and elderly.
Overall global warming severely affects human activity through its connection with extreme weather. The different types of extreme weather greatly impact on economic, social and environmental aspects of people’s lives; however significantly less in a MEDC than a LEDC.