These-Effects-of-Extreme-Weather-Conditions-May-Surprise-You

These Effects of Extreme Weather Conditions May Surprise You

Jane Marsh - June 20, 2024

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When many people discuss the effects of extreme weather in their areas, issues such as power outages, flooding, and uncomfortable temperatures arise. Those are common characteristics, but scientists have also made some other intriguing observations about what extraordinary temperatures and storms can cause. 

Heat Waves Increase Hospital Care for Children With Asthma

Extreme heat causes changes that occur as the body strives to keep its core temperature at the ideal level for human functionality. As people get hotter, their heart rates increase, they sweat more and their blood pressure drops. Some individuals also notice that their feet swell or their skin breaks out in a mild rash.

A 2024 study also found a connection between extreme weather conditions and an increased risk of hospital visits for kids with asthma. More specifically, this research focused on California during a heat wave. The team used three years of data and 18 heat wave definitions in their work.

The study’s design allowed finding associations between heat waves and hospital visits for childhood asthma. The results indicated extreme daytime heat caused a 19% increase in the need for such medical care. However, they did not show the same connection for excessive warmth at night. Additionally, longer heat waves made kids twice as likely to need to visit the hospital for asthma. 

The coverage of this study noted that California’s characterization as a coastal region means fewer homes have air conditioners compared to other parts of the country. However, this research could encourage policymakers, public health officials and others to become more aware of the consequences of insufficient resources to stay cool when the temperatures rise. 

Something as simple as installing a window unit in a home without air conditioning or putting a fan in a child’s bedroom could help kids with asthma avoid attacks that send them to the hospital. Updating health messaging to tell parents about this connection to extreme weather conditions and remind them of general advice to stay safe in heat waves could also reduce the associated health burdens.

Heavy Rainfall Exacerbates Agricultural Runoff

Research has shown that climate change has posed additional agricultural challenges, including those that make crops less successful or increase dangers for outdoor workers. A 2023 study found a different connection between extreme weather conditions and agriculture. 

The work examined more than a decade of Wisconsin precipitation events to learn more about the nutrient runoff associated with such rainfall and the end of the state’s growing season. One finding was that ammonia concentrations in the state’s watersheds were 49% higher within five days of 1 inch of rainfall, while phosphorus levels were 24% greater. 

Another takeaway was that this effect occurred — albeit less severely — when the state had only one day per month with more than 1 inch of rainfall, the monthly totals were 28% higher, while those for phosphorus were 15% above normal. The researchers also mentioned how climate change models suggest extreme weather conditions will become more common, emphasizing their work’s importance. Overall, the group confirmed a “direct impact of extreme participation on runoff,” and they believe the soil’s sedimented nutrients cause it.

Even more essential is that they explored conservation methods to reduce these rainfall-related consequences. For example, planting cover crops in the winter can reduce watershed nutrient levels. The team also emphasized the need to maintain soil health, including through conservation tillage. 

However, the researchers pointed out that it’s not necessarily cost-effective for agricultural professionals to deploy conservation strategies. Allocating government funds for conservation strategies that minimize agricultural runoff could promote better resilience as extreme weather conditions become more prominent.

Childhood Marriages Increase Along With Extreme Weather Conditions

A systematic review showed low and middle-income countries have more child, forced, and early marriages when extreme weather is more common. However, the researchers emphasized it was not the conditions causing that connection, but the associated hardships. 

More specifically, extraordinary weather can worsen existing problems, such as poverty and gender inequality, causing some families to consider early marriages as coping mechanisms. The study accounted for 20 papers published between 1990 and 2022 centering on the links between weather-related disasters and child marriages. Although droughts and floods were the most common issues discussed, some papers explored others, such as heat waves and cyclones. 

Economic Drivers and Beyond

One takeaway was that regional customs — such as bride price and dowry — were the strongest links between extreme weather conditions and child marriages. The research revealed that girls living in areas where their families would receive money for their marriages were most likely subjected to those unions after droughts and heavy rainfall. 

However, in areas where dowry traditions mean the family of the bride pays the groom’s relatives, girls were less likely to get married during drought years because their relations could not afford those payments. The links also spread beyond economics. 

One Kenyan study included in this research highlighted child brides used to supplement household labor needs, including walking long distances to find food and water. A related issue occurred when weather conditions uprooted communities and forced people to live in emergency camps. Since young girls often became targets for violence and sexual harassment in such circumstances, their families sometimes had them marry prematurely to avoid such conditions. 

A positive finding was that education reduced child marriages, making girls less likely to go through them and parents less likely to prioritize that option. The researchers emphasized that education is important, but solutions to minimize this societal trend must also center on efforts to reduce the poverty and other hardships extreme weather causes. 

Understanding the Links to Extreme Weather Conditions  

The more people learn about the ripple effects of extreme weather conditions, the better they can prepare for them and assist the affected parties. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests climate change will make storms and other disasters happen more often. 

People can’t necessarily control that outcome — at least not in the short term. However, those with the power to make changes should use it to reduce the potential harm experienced by those caught up in the aftermath. 

It’ll also be important to track the most and least effective preventive measures. The most successful efforts will be those positioned to receive future investments and deployments in other areas. 

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.