A new study suggests that Americans are increasingly siding with the vast majority of scientists who say human activity is altering the earth's climate. 69 percent of respondents to the poll, commissioned by researchers at Yale University and George Mason University and conducted by Knowledge Networks, agreed with the statement that global warming is affecting the weather in the United States.
This past winter has seen witnessed unprecedented warm weather, with temperatures in the continental United States exceeding the average by 8.6 degree for March and 6 degrees for the first three months of 2012. That has contributed to elevated dryness, with all but two states registering abnormally dry or drought conditions in April and Connecticut experiencing the driest January to March period on record.
While there is a broad consensus within the scientific community that humans are spurring climate change, scientists have been cautious about linking severe weather fluctuations over the last few years to climate change. But 72 percent of respondents to the poll strongly or somewhat agreed that the unusually warm winter was linked to global warming.
A comparable proportion drew a link between global warming and record-shattering temperatures that scorched much of the United States last summer, leading to a brutal drought in Texas. A smaller majority of respondents, about two-thirds, linked global warming to record snowfall in 2010 and 2011 and to the massive flooding that melting snow helped fuel.
2011 was a banner year for extreme weather, surpassing previous records for the number of billion-dollar natural disasters as Americans dealt with a processions of floods, blizzards and droughts, as well as Hurricane Irene. Global warming aside, respondents affirmed by a greater than two-to-one margin that weather in the U.S. has been worsening, not improving, over the last few years.