How Quickly We Adjust To Wild Weather

How Quickly We Adjust To Wild Weather

People have short memories when it comes to what they consider “normal” weather, according to new research.

On average, people base their idea of normal weather on what has happened in just the past two to eight years, researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This disconnect with the historical climate record may obscure the public’s perception of climate change.

“There’s a risk that we’ll quickly normalize conditions we don’t want to normalize,” says lead author Frances C. Moore, an assistant professor in the environmental science and policy department at the University of California, Davis.

“We are experiencing conditions that are historically extreme, but they might not feel particularly unusual if we tend to forget what happened more than about five years ago.”

To reach their conclusions, the researchers quantified a timeless and universal pastime—talking about the weather—by analyzing posts on Twitter.

They sampled 2.18 billion geolocated tweets that users created between March 2014 and November 2016 to determine what kind of temperatures generated the most posts about weather. They found that people often tweet when temperatures are unusual for a particular place and time of year—a particularly warm March or unexpectedly freezing winter, for example.

However, if the same weather persisted year after year, it generated less comment on Twitter, indicating that people began to view it as normal in a relatively short amount of time.

This phenomenon, the authors note, is a classic case of the boiling-frog metaphor: A frog jumps into a pot of boiling hot water and immediately hops out. If, instead, the frog in the pot slowly warms to a boiling temperature, it doesn’t hop out and eventually cooks. While scientifically inaccurate, this metaphor has long been used as a cautionary tale warning against normalizing the steadily changing conditions that climate change causes.

temperature anomaly chartEffect of shifting baselines on the remarkable nature of temperature anomalies. (Fig. 4 in the PNAS study.) The figure shows the relationship between how hot it is getting (red line) and how hot people think and feel it is getting (blue line). (Credit: UC Davis)Effect of shifting baselines on the remarkable nature of temperature anomalies. (Fig. 4 in the PNAS study.) The figure shows the relationship between how hot it is getting (red line) and how hot people think and feel it is getting (blue line). (Credit: UC Davis)

Sentiment analysis tools, which measure the positive or negative association of words, provided evidence for this “boiling-frog effect.” After repeat exposures to historically extreme temperatures, people tweeted less about the weather specifically, but they still expressed negative sentiments overall. Particularly cold or hot conditions still seemed to make people unhappy and grumpy.

“We saw that extreme temperatures still make people miserable, but they stop talking about it,” Moore says. “This is a true boiling-frog effect. People seem to be getting used to changes they’d prefer to avoid. But just because they’re not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s not making them worse off.”

Additional coauthors are from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the University of British Columbia.

Source: UC Davis

Related Books

enafarzh-CNzh-TWnltlfrdehiiditjakomsfaptruesswsvthtrurvi

LATEST VIDEOS

What Happens When The Permafrost Thaws?
by Official W5
Almost half of Canada sits on permanently frozen land called permafrost, but climate change is causing it to thaw and…
We Are Striking to Disrupt the System: An Hour with 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
by Democracy Now!
In her first extended broadcast interview in the United States, we spend the hour with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old…
Annual Assessment of North Cascades Glaciers Finds Shocking Loss of Volume
Annual Assessment of North Cascades Glaciers Finds Shocking Loss of Volume
by Mauri Pelto
The summer of 2019 found the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project in the field for the 36th consecutive summer…
Breakdown In Coral Reef Iconic Spawning Puts Species At Risk Of Extinction
Breakdown In Coral Reef Iconic Spawning Puts Species At Risk Of Extinction
by Heidi Burdett
Breakdown In Coral Reef Iconic Spawning Puts Species At Risk Of Extinction
How Climate Change Is Driving Emigration From Central America
How Climate Change Is Driving Emigration From Central America
by Miranda Cady Hallett
Clouds of dust rose behind the wheels of the pickup truck as we hurtled over the back road in Palo Verde, El Salvador.
Star Wars: The Evolution Of The Death Star Reflects Hollywood's Growing Fears Of A Climate Apocalypse
Star Wars: The Evolution Of The Death Star Reflects Hollywood's Growing Fears Of A Climate Apocalypse
by Toby Neilson
Science fiction films are rarely about the future. Their distant planets and remote time periods instead seem to…
The Amazon Fire Crisis Has Been 500 Years In The Making – As Brazil's Indigenous People Know Only Too Well
The Amazon Fire Crisis Has Been 500 Years In The Making – As Brazil's Indigenous People Know Only Too Well
by Darren Reid
São Paulo – the largest city in the Americas – was recently plunged into darkness in the middle of the day due to smoke…
Recent Australian Droughts May Be The Worst In 800 Years
Recent Australian Droughts May Be The Worst In 800 Years
by Mandy Freund, et al
Australia is a continent defined by extremes, and recent decades have seen some extraordinary climate events.

LATEST ARTICLES

What Happens When The Permafrost Thaws?
by Official W5
Almost half of Canada sits on permanently frozen land called permafrost, but climate change is causing it to thaw and…
In Dandelions And Fireflies, Artists Try To Make Sense Of Climate Change
In Dandelions And Fireflies, Artists Try To Make Sense Of Climate Change
by Kate Flint
Climate change is real, it’s accelerating and it’s terrifying. We are adding carbon to the atmosphere at a rate 100…
Good Communication Is A Key Part Of Disaster Response
Good Communication Is A Key Part Of Disaster Response
by Shannon A. Bowen
Behind the scenes during hurricanes and other disasters, scores of public information officers in state and local…
Ocean Warming Is Changing The Relationship Coastal Communities Have With The Ocean
Ocean Warming Is Changing The Relationship Coastal Communities Have With The Ocean
by Eric Oliver
Climate change has made record-breaking heatwaves all the more likely, both on land and beneath the ocean’s surface.
Hurricane Dorian Was Fueled by Climate Change. Why Isn’t the Mainstream Media Making the Connection?
by Democracy Now!
At least 44 people are dead, and the number is expected to rise dramatically, as the Bahamas continues to reel from the…
Climate Change Is Bringing A New World Of Bushfires
Climate Change Is Bringing A New World Of Bushfires
by Dale Dominey-Howes
Spring has barely arrived, and bushfires are burning across Australia’s eastern seaboard.
We Are Striking to Disrupt the System: An Hour with 16-Year-Old Climate Activist Greta Thunberg
by Democracy Now!
In her first extended broadcast interview in the United States, we spend the hour with Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old…
How Bahamas And The Caribbean Can Increase Resiliency To Face Onslaught Of Massive Hurricanes
by Paul Beckwith
Clearly, the northernmost Bahama islands have been essentially destroyed with tremendous loss of life; last video I…