Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events – An Update
Over the last ten to fifteen years, the number of extreme weather events studied has increased. These formal studies typically occur a year or more after the event, as the writing and peer-review process for journal papers takes many months. The majority of studies included in this update were published in special issues of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society on the topic of “Explaining Extreme Weather Events.” Various other studies were gathered through online research, the Climate Signals database, and searches of journals. The update covers studies published through February 2021.
Human-induced changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events
As the world warms, the number of cold days and nights is decreasing. However, this warming process is also making extreme weather events more common and more intense. Human-induced climate change is one of the main factors behind these extremes. The report found that in the coming decades, we can expect even more extreme weather events. But how does climate change influence the intensity of these events? Is climate change the only factor affecting extreme weather events? The answer to this question is not as straightforward as it seems.
In a study conducted by Media Matters for America, the major newspapers in California and Texas failed to mention climate change when reporting on the U.S. Clean Power Plan. Major newspapers called California wildfires the “new normal,” but failed to identify the causes. And when reporting on the May-June floods in Texas, many reporters did not even mention climate change or attribute the occurrence of extreme weather to climate change.
Impacts of climate change on extreme weather events
While the effects of climate change are often local, the impacts of climate change on extreme weather events are global. Many locations around the world will experience increased heat waves and decreased episodes of extreme cold. Furthermore, precipitation events will become less frequent, but more intense. In areas where rainfall is less common, droughts will become more common. These changes will have profound impacts on human health, economies, and ecosystems. In the U.S., climate change is expected to increase extreme weather, with many locations experiencing increased heat waves and heavy rainfall events.
A new study published in the journal PNAS reexamines a previous study that suggested climate change had reduced the risk of floods in Europe. However, Trenberth and his colleagues argue that climate change increased the volume of moisture in the atmosphere, causing a more intense heat wave in 2003. In addition to these findings, the researchers calculated the economic costs associated with human-induced extreme events. In a study published in 2020, climate change was blamed for $67 billion in damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, which occurred in 2017.
Impacts of extreme weather events on ecosystems
While we may have some idea of the causes of extreme weather events, we still don’t know how they impact ecosystems. In fact, many of these events are highly interactive, and they are often triggered by low-level meteorological conditions. This makes them critical to include in biological models, since they can be mechanistic drivers of broad responses to climatic changes. However, more research is needed to understand the complex consequences of these events.
Most ecological responses were not consistent across studies. Some showed significant and persistent changes, while others were inconsistent. We categorised the ecological responses based on their specific characteristics, including whether they were positive, neutral, or ambiguous. Positive responses were generally reported for species that responded to the extreme events. We also included those responses that suggested that ecosystems might have adapted to the extreme events in some way. Ultimately, our goal is to identify the most important ecological responses to extreme weather events, and to develop effective solutions that will allow us to better understand them.
Impacts of extreme weather events on human populations
The impacts of extreme weather events on human populations are often complex and multi-faceted. The extent and frequency of disasters vary, but the human health impact of such events can be profound. For example, severe weather can affect vulnerable populations, including those with pre-existing conditions, poverty, and disabilities. Some extreme weather events can even affect infrastructure, including water supplies and power grids. Thus, planning for these events is essential for minimizing the negative health effects and ensuring that necessary services are available.
While floods are one of the most common extreme weather events, they do not always kill people. Many floods result in extensive damage and a high death toll. Floods are also extremely dangerous, with large inland flooding and mudslides resulting in significant injury and death. Moreover, climate change is predicted to bring more heavy rain events and more intense tropical cyclones. This means that human populations will be increasingly vulnerable to these events.