Wild Weather: Global Warming or Just Weird?

Four days of rain and the worst flooding in 70 years in parts of New England gives new evidence to those who say weather around the world has become more extreme.

The debate continues over whether the wild weather we're experiencing is connected to global warming, and there are many naysayers who argue that you can't connect any of the incidents of strange weather to global warming.

Will Al Gore starring in his own movie about global warming be able to change people's minds, to get people thinking that all this weather is an "inconvenient truth"? Well, for all those who argue against the notion of global warming, just how normal does this sound?

This is just a sample of the extreme weather our globe has experienced over the past few years:

The United States logs the warmest January since 1895, averaging just under 40 degrees.

A record downpour soaks the Nevada desert.

Hail pummels Manhattan in the middle of April.

Glaciers melt in Greenland.

The worst drought hits the Amazon rain forest in a century.

Three Category 5 hurricanes -- including Katrina, Rita and Wilma -- and 27 named Atlantic storms struck in 2005.

Just last summer, India records its greatest precipitation event ever, with a weather station in Mumbai getting 37 inches of rain in 24 hours.

In Hawaii Mount Waialeale got nearly 130 inches -- almost 11 feet -- of rain in six weeks.

Back in 2003, Europe's record-breaking heat wave killed more than 30,000 eel in the River Rhine.

Wildfires burn 2.6 million hectares in Alaska.

Canada experiences a record cold winter in the east and a record hot summer on the west coast.

Tasmania gets its second wettest January in more than 100 years.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, 2005 marked the warmest global temperature on record.

So is all this wild weather global warming? Are the divine powers that be sending us messages to take it easy on the environment? Or is this just "natural"?

"It's random, and nowadays with all the technology, we have things that have always been happening to us are becoming more apparent because we're filming it," said Henry Margusity, a meteorologist with Accuweather. "If you had the same kind of footage of Hurricane Camille back in 1969, people would say Katrina was just like Camille."

Margusity said the flooding today in parts of Massachusetts harkens back to a weather pattern Boston saw in 1954. That's when Boston got 13 inches of rain in May, followed by hits from hurricanes Carol and Edna.

"For people to say all this is because of global warming, that's really hard to say," Margusity said. "Global warming isn't slow and gradual; it's fast and catastrophic. I don't think the day after tomorrow is unreasonable for that to happen."

But that view is not shared by scientists like Bill Chameides at Envornmental Defense, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to come up with responses to environmental problems.

"All these extreme weather events are harbingers of more of what we're going to see. People always say the U.S. is invulnerable to such extreme weather events. But these types of events are a real reminder of how vulnerable we are to loss, property and lives," Chameides said.

Call it global warming or don't. But most people can agree that all this extreme weather can be a costly proposition. Just last year the world incurred more than $200 billion in economic losses as a result of weather-related natural disasters.

That makes 2005 the costliest year on record, according to the Munich Re Foundation. That's the same figure U.S. Public Interest Research Group reported that the United States spent resolving weather-related incidents throughout the whole decade of the 1990s.

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