Viewer Spotlight: Explaining the relationship between climate change and extreme weather

Scripps News Meteorologist Scott Withers answers some of your calls this week about our coverage on major storms, wildfires, and heat waves that have recently plagued the U.S.
Climate Heat Dome Weather
Posted at 1:34 PM, Jun 07, 2024

Each week, we take a moment to respond to some of your calls to our toll-free Viewer Hotline.

As we continue to cover a devastating tornado season in the middle of the country — and enter an above-average Atlantic hurricane season — several of you have called in asking about how our reporting fits into the big picture.

The sun over a city skyline


A heat dome is covering regions of the US, triggering excessive heat warnings

Chloe Nordquist
2:18 PM, Jun 04, 2024

Karen from Wisconsin:
"I was just looking at your coverage of the tornadoes in Oklahoma ... and I note that you have no mention of climate change, and I really believe that if you want to have credibility as a news source when you talk about the storms that are being made more extreme and more common by climate change, ... it really is important that everybody understands why these storms are happening now. "

Joe from Arizona:
"As I'm watching these, I haven't heard the term climate change one time. What happened? ... Anyway, Scripps News, tell it like it is, baby, because we're going to give you the truth whether you like it or not. Have a good day."

Based on overwhelming evidence and consensus among scientists, Scripps News acknowledges in its reporting that human-caused climate change is fact. And given the scale of its impacts, we consider it one of the biggest news stories of our time.

So, why don't we report that every storm is a result of climate change? That's just not where the science leads.

A thermometer hangs in a make-shift prison cell.

Climate Change

Record greenhouse gases likely made 2023 the hottest in 100,000 years

Justin Boggs
6:12 AM, Jan 09, 2024

Climate Change supercharges the environment. We still sometimes see extreme winter storms, even as the planet overall is getting hotter. We still see droughts, even as storms and flooding become more severe.

Climate change doesn't create individual storms, which have been around since well before human-driven climate change. However, since all of the earth's systems are intertwined, it does create conditions for stronger storms.

For example, in the last two Atlantic hurricane seasons, when Hurricanes Ian and Idalia made landfall, they exploded in size because of record sea surface temperatures that were a result of climate change. As more heat is retained in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels, hurricanes will rapidly intensify, sea levels will rise due to ice melt, and thunderstorms will strengthen.

Scripps News will continue to keep you up to date on major weather events — and the science behind them — as they happen. We're dedicated to bringing you all the facts, without the spin or sensationalism.

So, tell us more about what you think! Leave us a message anytime on our toll-free Scripps News Viewer Hotline at 1-833-4-SCRIPPS.