Floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, an increase in tropical storms, climate change has had radical and irreversible effects on the environment. According to philosopher Dale Jamieson, author of “Reason in a Dark Time,” more than 60 percent of Americans believe that climate change will harm other species and future generations, while only thirty-two percent believe it will harm them personally.
Considering the devastation and impact of Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy, or the fact that California is in the midst of a historic drought, one would think that more than thirty-two percent of Americans would believe that climate change could harm them personally.
Extreme weather not only affects people. It can also alter history and change the world. From the Bubonic Plaque to the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, weather has had a profound impact on economic conditions and migration patterns. Meteorology has affected the outcome of wars, led to wide scale human tragedy, and prevented one Japanese city from having an atomic bomb dropped on it while sealing the fate of another.
12 Cold Weather Contributes to Challenger Disaster
11 Donora Smog
It's described by The New York Times “as one of the worst air pollution disasters in American history.” In 1948, hydrogen fluoride and sulfur dioxide emissions from the U.S. Steel’s Donora Zinc Works mixed with fog to create a lethal toxic event. A thick wall of smog hung over the Pennsylvania mill town for five days. The smog killed 20 people and sickened 7,000. Fifty more residents died from respiratory complications after the event.
10 Lightning and the Hindenburg Disaster
On May 6, 1937, the German passenger airship burst into flames, resulting in 36 fatalities. News coverage of the disaster played around the word, and several unproven hypotheses as to what caused the accident were put forward.
Did leaked hydrogen gas cause the Hindenburg to burst into flames? Did anti-Nazi sympathizers sabotage the airship. Conspiracy theorists even suggested Hitler had ordered the Hindenburg to be destroyed.
9 The 1967 Heat Wave and Urban Riots
8 Divine Wind Conquers Kublai Khan
In the 13th century, Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, launched a fleet to seize control of Japan. The Mongol ships were met with two massive typhoons. The typhoons, which came to be known as “divine wind,” or "kamikaze," spared Japan from occupation in 1274 and again 1281. Shinto priests believed the storms were the result of prayer.
7 The Great Mississippi Flood and Northern Migration
It began with heavy rains in the central basin of the Mississippi in 1926. In 1927, the Mississippi River breached its levee system in 145 places and flooded over 27,000 square miles. The flood killed 246 people in seven states and caused over $400 million in damages.
6 Fog and the Battle of Long Island
If a dense fog hadn’t blanketed the East River in 1776, American history may have turned out differently. On August 27, 1776, George Washington and the Continental Army suffered a defeat by British troops. Washington and his men were trapped at the western end of Long Island.
5 Hurricane Defeats Spanish Armada
King Phillip’s invasion of England didn’t go as planed. In 1588, the Spanish Armada was damaged after two weeks of heavy fighting. Medina Sedona aborted the plan and plotted a return course to Spain. As the Armada circled the British Isles, it encountered a large hurricane; 24 ships ran aground on the shores of Ireland.
4 Severe Storms and the French Revolution
Historians believe a cycle of severe storms and unusual weather partly triggered the French Revolution. Between 1787 and 1788, most of France’s crops were destroyed by drought, hailstorms, and flooding. Food poverty was a contributing factor in the French Revolution. But what caused the freakish weather?
3 Cloud Cover and Nuclear Weapons
“Cloud cover less than three-tenths. Advice: bomb primary.”
That’s what the pilot on a weather reconnaissance plane radioed on August 6, 1945 at 7:09 in the morning. At 8:15 a.m., a U.S. B-29 dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.
2 Maya Collapse Tied to Drought
The Mayan empire flourished in Mexico and northern Central America for six centuries but before it began to disintegrate in A.D. 900. Scientists believe two factors contributed to the collapse of Mayan civilization –deforestation and drought.
1 Harsh Russian Winter Leads to German Defeat
In September 1941, Hitler launched Operation Typhoon, sweeping into the Soviet Union with 75 German divisions and over two million men. Napoleon launched a similar attack on Moscow in 1812, his army pillaging the city only to fall victim to the Russian winter on the march home. Minus 40-degree temperatures, frostbite, and starvation killed 450,000 of Napolean's men.
If Hitler had been a better student of history, maybe he wouldn’t have launched an attack on Russia with winter approaching. The German army was so confident it would win against Stalin’s troops that it brought dress uniforms for a victory march in Red Square instead of a surplus of winter clothing. The harsh Russian winter led to German defeats outside of Moscow and Stalingrad and was the turning point in the war.
Sources: huffingtonpost.com, livescience.com, theguardian.com, weather.com
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