• 77°

We may not be able to control the weather, but we can get a COVID vaccination

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. That old quip, often attributed to Mark Twain or his friend Charles Dudley Warner, now guides most news coverage of severe weather. Many say that natural disasters are a result of climate change and we need to adopt radical policies to combat them.
But, sometimes weather just happens.
Take this weekend! Twenty-two people are dead in Middle Tennessee and many are missing after 17 inches of rain sent floodwaters swirling in Waverly, Tenn. Saturday’s flooding in rural areas took out roads, cellphone towers and telephone lines, leaving families uncertain about whether their loved ones survived the unprecedented deluge.
This year there have been more severe weather/climate disaster events in the United States than usual. These events have included severe heat, drought, flooding, several storms, wildfires, and tornadoes and hurricanes.
The western part of the nation has endured a heatwave and wildfires. as well as flooding. The Southeast has experienced tornadoes and flooding. The Northeast had a winter storm and cold wave in February, and Texas and Oklahoma, too, have experienced severe weather.
Wildfires have consumed entire towns in the west and the heat has smothered that part of the nation as well as parts of the south.
The extreme weather disasters have driven home some facts: That we cannot control the weather whether it be due to climate change or it be an act of God. The weather events of 2021 have not only been contained to the U.S., but to other parts of the world, including Europe. The weather affects the rich and poor, alike. And, no one is exempt from the weather, good or bad.
Though it’s historically been difficult to say if single weather events were directly caused by climate change, scientists have proven that many of the events that took place in 2020 and this year would have been far less likely, or even impossible, without changes to the climate that are being driven by the warming of the earth.
A rise of a few degrees may not sound like much, but it has huge implications for the weather we’ll see in the coming years, says Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA focused on the links between climate change and extreme weather. “It’s a number that is describing really profound and vast changes in the climate system that we feel mostly through individual weather events and through extreme events.”
It’s impossible to know weather wise what the remainder of the year holds or even 2022, but it’s highly likely that more extremes are on the way.
We are likely to see more episodes of extreme heat than we are used to in the coming years, scientists say, because they have been made far more likely on a warming planet. Studies found that climate change made Europe’s 2019 heatwave up to 100 times more likely, for example.
When high temperatures combine with dry conditions, strong winds and an abundance of vegetation as fuel, wildfires become highly likely. We saw that in 2020, and again this year.
We do know this: Weather happens, prepared or unprepared. And, when it happens during a pandemic such as the high rates of COVID infection we are experiencing, not only in Tennessee, but across the nation, it is a nasty combination. The weather alone can cause havoc, but combined with COVID, the danger increases.
Some hot and dry weather is in our immediate forecast, and so is COVID.
We may not be able to do much about the weather, but we can do something about COVID. We can wear a mask and if you have not been vaccinated, get your shot this week.