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June 20, 2011

Is weather becoming more extreme?

Extreme weather events have always been with us, and always will be. One can't point to a single severe storm, or even an entire harsh winter, as evidence of climate change. But a trend of weather intensity, and oddity, grows. Droughts linger longer. Hurricanes hit harder. Snowstorms strike long after winter should have ended. World record hailstones fall. China endures a crippling drought, and then punishing floods. Millions are displaced in a flood of historic proportion in Pakistan. The U.S. sees the Mississippi River reach historic flood crests, and then sees the largest wildfire in Arizona history. None of these events on their own mean anything. Collectively, do they mean we're seeing the earth's climate change before our eyes? -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)

A huge swath of the United States is affected by a winter storm that brought layers of dangerous ice and blowing snow, closing roads and airports from Texas to Rhode Island in this February 1 satellite image. The storm's more than 2,000-mile reach threatened to leave about a third of the nation covered in harsh weather. Ice fell first and was expected to be followed by up to two feet of snow in some places. (NOAA/AP)

Flood victim Mohammed Nawaz hangs onto a moving raft as he is rescued by the Pakistan Navy August 10, 2010 in Sukkur, Pakistan. Pakistan is suffering from the worst flooding in 80 years, which has displaced millions. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) #

A flood victim holds her head after she was injured while fighting for food being distributed from a truck in Pakistan's Muzaffargarh district of Punjab province September 10, 2010. (Asim Tanveer/Reuters) #

A U.S. rescue helicopter carrying flood victims flys in Kallam, Pakistan September 2, 2010. Relief efforts in flood-ravaged Pakistan are being stretched by the "unprecedented scale" of the disaster. (A. MajeedAFP/Getty Images) #

A man walks through a flooded street August 1, 2010 in Nowshera, Pakistan. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images) #

Onlookers perched on a damaged bridge watch a man use a rope to cross the river in Chakdara, Pakistan August 3, 2010. (AFP/Getty Images) #

A fire rages near Viege, Switzerland April 26 as nine helicopters and 300 men battle a forest fire near the town in the south of drought-stricken Switzerland. Several Swiss cantons imposed bans on lighting fires in or near forested areas amid one of the worst droughts to hit the country in 150 years. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images) #

Trucks disappear into the snow as they travel along I-70 February 1 near Boonville, Mo. Potentially the worst winter storm to hit Missouri in decades began its trek across the state, dumping more than a foot of snow while delivering freezing rain, winds and dangerously cold temperatures. (L.G. Patterson/AP) #

Snow accumulates in a truck that was stranded and left open on Lake Shore Drive February 2 in Chicago. A winter blizzard of historic proportions wobbled an otherwise snow-tough Chicago, stranding hundreds of drivers for up to 12 hours overnight on the city's showcase lakeshore thoroughfare and giving many city schoolchildren their first ever snow day. (Kiichiro Sato/AP) #

In this image taken from video, an explosion lights up the night sky as the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blows an 11,000 foot hole in the Birds Point levee in Mississippi County, Mo. May 2. The explosion will flood 130,000 acres of farmland in Missouri's Mississippi County but protect nearby Cairo, Ill. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP) #

The Quad Cities River Bandits and the Peoria Chiefs play a game April 20 inside Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, Iowa. T he rising flood waters of the Mississippi River surround the stadium which is protected by a flood wall. (Paul Colletti/The Dispatch/AP) #

A levee protects a home surrounded by floodwater from the Yazoo River May 18 near Vicksburg, Miss. The flooded Mississippi River is forcing the Yazoo River to top its banks, and heavy rains have left the ground saturated, rivers swollen, and have caused widespread flooding along the Mississippi River from Illinois to Louisiana. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) #

Operations controller Kevin Wincell inspects the runway at City airport in London December 2. Heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures disrupted travel across Europe. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg) #

Smog shrouds central London April 22. The British Government warned of potentially dangerous levels of air pollution. The combination of hot weather and still conditions brought on by a high pressure system meant levels of ozone and polluting particles were expected to increase. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images) #

Utility companies set new power poles in Pratt City, Ala. May 3 as storms moved into the area already severely damaged by tornados the week before. (Butch Dill/AP) #

A man carries a young girl who was rescued after being trapped with her mother in their home after a tornado hit Joplin, Mo. Super Outbreak 2011, on April 25-28, killed more than 300 people in the South and Midwest. There have been more than 500 deaths and counting so far this year. (Mike Gullett/AP) #

A Chinese worker fires rockets for cloud seeding in an attempt to make rain in Huangpi, China May 10. The drought plaguing central China for months has left more than one million people without proper drinking water and cut output of hydroelectric power, as water levels at nearly 1,400 reservoirs in Hubei province have fallen below the operational level. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man fishes as geese swim in a partially dried-up river channel on a branch of the Hanjiang River in Wuhan, China May 25. The worst drought in 50 years hit the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and has affected 9.89 million people in four central provinces. (Stringer/Reuters) #

A Chinese woman grieves during a mass funeral for victims of the floods in Linxiang, China June 11. Floods triggered by torrential rain in southern and central China have killed 52 people and forced more than 100,000 to flee their homes. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man salvages belongings from his home as flood water hit Laibin, China June 16. Rain forced the evacuation of more than 55,000 people, while the number of people confirmed killed in more than a week of floods and landslides leapt past 100. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man wades through a flooded street in Yotoco, Colombia April 22. Heavy rains caused floods and landslides throughout Colombia. Strong rains battering Colombia for the last 12 months, have already left 408 dead, 487 wounded, 75 missing and 2.8 million people affected. (Carlos Julio Martinez/AP) #

A man collects belongings inside his flooded house in Cali, Colombia April 22. (Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images) #

Men ride horses through a flooded area in San Benito, Colombia May 20. (Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images) #

Villagers gather at the site of a devastating mudslide in Nakau, Thailand April 1 following torrential rains. Severe flooding in southern Thailand has left 25 dead and caused thousands to be evacuated after whole villages were engulfed by rising waters. (Madaree Tohlala/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man casts a fishing net into floodwaters in the Phunpin district of Surat Thani province south of Bangkok April 3. (Sukree Sukplang/Reuters) #

A farmer runs his tractor over the submerged motorway between Malmo and Trelleborg in southern Sweden January 17 after flooding caused by thaw following heavy snow. (Drago Prvulovic/Scanpix/Reuters) #

University of Iowa employees use an elevator to carry out snow that had blown into the Carver Biomedical Reseach Building's air supply intake February 2 in Iowa City. The snow had blown in during a massive storm and restricted the building's intake. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) #

A longhorn bull stands in a burned out pasture April 24 near Graford, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images) #

Wendi Lehman of Jacksonville headed for cover after visiting the Midtown Beach in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 5 as a strong storm front moved through the area. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post/AP) #

Truckers chain up in heavy snow on Mount Hood in Government Camp, Ore. April 6. A very late winter storm brought colder air and snow to many areas throughout western Oregon. (Don Ryan/AP) #

An Egyptian ice cream vendor pushes his cart during a strong dust storm that engulfed Kuwait City April 13. Schools, banks and some corporations let students and employees off early due to the air quality, and authorities at Kuwait International airport reported that visibility was down to 300 meters. (Stephanie McGehee/Reuters) #

A man pushes a cart after a hailstorm in Mexico City April 16. (Alexandre Meneghini/AP) #

A man shelters during a winter storm at Ciudad Juarez February 2. Snow and sub-zero temperatures are a rarity in this area. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images) #

A farmer carries a bucket of water to extinguish a bush fire triggered by the ongoing drought at a farm on the outskirts of Havana April 20. The shortage of rain has led to a significant drop in water levels in the country's reservoirs and has hurt the availability of groundwater, affecting water supplies and increasing the danger of fires. (Desmond Boylan/Reuters) #

Residents transport drought-stricken camels on donkey carts as they look for greener pastures in Mogadishu April 22. (Feisal Omar/Reuters) #

Trees are covered by snow after unusual cold hit parts of central Europe at the Brocken mountain near Schierke, Germany May 3. (Jens Schlueter/dapd/AP) #

Workers install canvas covers on the glacier ice of Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze, May 10. To keep ski-lift sections safe for the winter season, the glacier ice is protected from melting from May to September. (Michaela Rehle/AP) #

Residents search for bodies of landslide victims in Kingking, Philippines April 24. Officials said 15 miners had been rescued, but 21 people still remained missing from the landslide. (Erik de Castro/Reuters) #

A woman reacts at the site of a deadly landslide in Port-au–Prince June 7. Heavy rain hammered southern Haiti for a seventh straight day, triggering floods and mudslides and causing houses and shanties in the capital to collapse. (Dieu Nalio Chery/AP) #

Toads move towards dry ground after rain fell at a swamp in Cheongju, South Korea May 26. (Hwang Jung-hyon/Yonhap/Reuters) #

Jim Pinter evacuates his home at the Wallow Fire June 2 in Alpine, Ariz. High winds and temperatures complicated firefighters' efforts to get the blaze under control. (Jack Kurtz/The Arizona Republic/AP) #

Flames are seen over homes in Sierra Vista, Ariz. June 16. The biggest wildfire in state history is closing in on a half million acres burned. (Greg Bryan/Arizona Daily Star/AP) #

A car lies covered by a landslide after a cloudburst in Doda, India June 9. At least four people were feared dead and hundreds of vehicles were stranded. (Channi Anand/AP) #

Rescuers carry a body from a landslide that partially buried an orphanage in Hulu Langat, Malaysia May 22. (Bazuki Muhammad/AP) #

People pack the emergency evacuation center at Earlville Shopping Centre as low lying areas of the city were evacuated ahead of a huge tidal storm surge predicted to accompany Cyclone Yasi in Cairns February 2. The storm had strengthened to a Catagory 5 with winds close to 300km/hr and was expected to be the worst cyclone in Australia's living memory. (Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images) #

Les and Deb Scott found a giant hailstone in Vivian, South Dakota July 23, 2010. (National Weather Service) #

A storm that produced 8-inch diameter hailstones bears down on Vivian, South Dakota July 23, 2010. (Chad Cowan) #



 
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