A new report from Yale and George Mason University finds that 74 percent of Americans now believe global warming is changing the weather in the United States. A September survey shows that figure has climbed 5 percent since March. When asked about six specific weather events, majorities of respondents to the survey said global warming made each event worse, with respondents most likely to connect global warming to the record temperatures experienced in the summer of 2012. Sixty-one percent say that the weather in the country has gotten worse over the past several years; that figure is up 9 percent since March.
The new survey was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication in partnership with the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Starting August 31, the research team interviewed 1,061 U.S. adults 18 years and older and asked questions about their beliefs about climate change and its influence on weather.
Research has shown that beliefs about global warming tend to be influenced by the weather that respondents are currently experiencing, as well as by their political affiliations. However, an increasing body of scientific data is making the connection between rising global temperatures and extreme weather events. For example, in August, James E. Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, announced a new study proving that “the extremes of unusually cool and, even more, the extremes of unusually hot are being altered so they are becoming both more common and more severe.” Another recent study from MIT predicts that every one-degree Celsius increase in temperature will cause 10 percent heavier extremes of rainfall in the tropics.
Meanwhile, new figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that 2012 is shaping up to be the hottest year on record for the United States. The agency’s monthly State of the Climate Report says that
The January-September period was the warmest first nine months of any year on record for the contiguous United States. The national temperature of 59.8°F was 3.8°F above the 20th century average, and 1.2°F above the previous record warm January-September of 2006. During the nine-month period, 46 states had temperatures among their ten warmest, with 25 states being record warm. Only Washington had statewide temperatures near average for the period.
Survey chart courtesy of Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. Temperature chart showing July 2012 as hottest month on record, credit NOAA.