Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the American Mind April 2013

Report Summary


  • About six in ten Americans (58%) say “global warming is affecting weather in the United States.”
  • Many Americans believe global warming made recent extreme weather and climatic events “more severe,” specifically: 2012 as the warmest year on record in the United States (50%); the ongoing drought in the Midwest and the Great Plains (49%); Superstorm Sandy (46%); and Superstorm Nemo (42%).
  • About two out of three Americans say weather in the U.S. has been worse over the past several years, up 12 percentage points since Spring 2012. By contrast, fewer Americans say weather has been getting better over the past several years – only one in ten (11%), down 16 points compared to a year ago.
  • Many Americans (51%) also say weather in their local area has been worse over the past several years.
  • Overall, 85 percent of Americans report that they experienced one or more types of extreme weather in the past year, most often citing extreme high winds (60%) and extreme heat (51%).
  • Of those Americans who experienced extreme weather events in the past year, many say they were significantly harmed. Moreover, the number who have been harmed appears to be growing (up 5 percentage points since Fall 2012 and 4 points since Spring 2012).
  • Most Americans (80%) have close friends or family members (not living with them) who experienced extreme weather events in the past year, including extreme high winds (47%), an extreme heat wave (46%), an extreme snowstorm (39%), extreme cold temperatures (39%), an extreme rainstorm (37%), or a drought (35%).
  • Over half of Americans (54%) believe it is “very” or “somewhat likely” that extreme weather will cause a natural disaster in their community in the coming year.
  • Americans who experienced an extreme weather event are most likely to have communicated about it person-to-person – either in person (89%) or on the phone (84%) – although some used social media, such as writing about the experience on Facebook (23%) or sharing a photo of the event or its aftermath using Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram (19%).