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From one extreme to another: Freak weather conditions stun the UK and the West

By David Harrison

The extreme and unusual weather causing problems in many parts of the world shows no sign of abating.

The UK continues to be battered by a succession of storms and floods, causing damage to thousands of homes and disrupting road and rail services. The floods have prompted a political row over whether more could have been done to limit the damage.

This afternoon the British Met Office issued its first "red warning" of the Winter with 100mph winds forecast to hit parts of the country's west coast. 

Politicians, academics and journalists have suggested that the conditions could be the fault of global warming. 

The United States found itself in the grip of a freezing “polar vortex” earlier this year, plunging even southern states into sub-zero temperatures.

As the storm unfolded snow and ice severely impacted travellers and residents from Texas to the Carolinas.

The polar vortex was a cyclone of extremely cold air formed near the North Pole. That is usually where it stays, but if winds weaken it can spill southwards, bringing Arctic weather with it.

In the southern hemisphere, meanwhile, Australia has undergone a “highly significant” heatwave this Summer, with temperatures in some inland areas reaching over 50C, smashing previous records.

Meteorologists say that one symptom of climate change is more frequent extreme weather events of all kinds, from droughts to floods, heatwaves and cold snaps.

In the UK, the government has been heavily criticised for not investing enough in flood defences, and being in denial about climate change and failing to invest in renewable energy. The authorities have also been blamed for their slow reaction to the floods..


Questions for debate and discussion

  1. What is climate change?
  2. Why has the UK government been criticised for its response to the floods? What could it do to avoid this in future?
  3. How can families protect themselves from extreme weather conditions?
  4. In your opinion, is it in our power to make the climate change situation better in the future? Explain your response.


Relevant resources

Flooding then and now
Compare the ways in which communities tackle extreme flooding in the UK in 1953 and 2013.

An introduction to world climate
This lesson explores the reasons why climates around the world differ so greatly.

Introduction to climate change
This detailed resource from ARKive explains everything you need to know about global warming and climate change.

Weather vocabulary
Help your students to improve their vocabulary with this handy list of weather wow words.

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