An Attempt to Address the Question, “Are Weather Patterns Changing?” for a Nonspecialist Audience

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This paper is derived from an address at an Illinois agricultural conference on the specified topic, “Are weather patterns changing?” It examines three contrasting perspectives on the weather and climate of the recent past and immediate future evident in the contemporary literature. One standpoint has interpreted recent weather extremes and climatic fluctuations as evidence that the earth is undergoing a larger-scale climatic change towards a cooler and more variable regime, while an alternative view considers these extremes and fluctuations to be part of normal climate. The third perspective results from the recent pronounced increase in atmospheric CO2, which may induce a warm climate change. The request to provide this address offered the additional opportunity of drawing agriculturalists' attention to the research their scientists, economists, and sociologists must perform before the adverse socioeconomic effects of weather and climate variability can be minimized. It was also stressed, however, that the atmospheric sciences will have to demonstrate credibility to win and retain this vital support required from other specialists.

This paper is derived from an address at an Illinois agricultural conference on the specified topic, “Are weather patterns changing?” It examines three contrasting perspectives on the weather and climate of the recent past and immediate future evident in the contemporary literature. One standpoint has interpreted recent weather extremes and climatic fluctuations as evidence that the earth is undergoing a larger-scale climatic change towards a cooler and more variable regime, while an alternative view considers these extremes and fluctuations to be part of normal climate. The third perspective results from the recent pronounced increase in atmospheric CO2, which may induce a warm climate change. The request to provide this address offered the additional opportunity of drawing agriculturalists' attention to the research their scientists, economists, and sociologists must perform before the adverse socioeconomic effects of weather and climate variability can be minimized. It was also stressed, however, that the atmospheric sciences will have to demonstrate credibility to win and retain this vital support required from other specialists.

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