Climate Change Is Making Extreme Weather Events More Frequent, Say Scientists



The United Nations calculated that excessive climate occasions resulted in 15,000 deaths and resulted in financial losses of US $170 billion in 2020.

Storms, floods, and droughts may be catastrophic for individuals and the atmosphere, however are these occasions on the rise? We requested four specialists in local weather science ‘Are excessive climate occasions changing into extra frequent globally?’, here’s what we discovered.


What are excessive climate occasions?

Excessive climate means climate occasions which might be uncommon for the place and time that they’re in, similar to a snowstorm in Hawaii. It could possibly additionally imply climate that strongly impacts day-to-day life, similar to extreme storms and droughts.

Blizzards, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, and heatwaves are excessive climate occasions. To know if excessive climate occasions are altering, specialists say it varies relying on the kind of climate occasion.

Dr Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, an knowledgeable in local weather science from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, says, “Some varieties of climate occasions have gotten extra excessive, similar to heatwaves or intense precipitation. Others have gotten much less excessive, similar to chilly waves. And plenty of fall in between: in some areas, drought turns into extra excessive, in others much less so”.

What’s the proof that excessive climate occasions have gotten extra frequent?

Dr Michael Wehner, an knowledgeable in climatology from the Lawrence Berkley Nationwide Laboratory within the US says, “Sure varieties of excessive climate have already turn out to be extra extreme due to human-induced local weather change. Different varieties of excessive climate are anticipated to turn out to be extra extreme because the local weather warms, however adjustments haven’t undoubtedly been discovered up to now.”

The varieties of excessive climate which were noticed to turn out to be extra extreme embrace heatwaves, droughts, and excessive precipitation. Whereas snowstorms and blizzards will seemingly turn out to be much less frequent and extreme.


For different varieties of excessive climate occasions, like hurricanes, the proof is extra nuanced. Scientists count on extra intense, greater, and longer-lasting storms, however truly fewer storms total. These greater hurricanes may also produce far more rainfall.

Dr Wehner says, “Hurricanes and tropical cyclones have been extensively studied and located to have higher quantities of precipitation than there would have been had people not interfered with the local weather system…Whereas will increase in hurricane precipitation are well-established, will increase within the wind velocity of intense hurricanes are additionally anticipated. Nevertheless, these anticipated excessive wind velocity will increase are but to be robustly detected on account of sign to noise points.”

Some types of excessive climate are so troublesome to measure that it’s not attainable to undoubtedly say if they’re changing into extra extreme or not.

“Very localized storms similar to tornadoes, mesoscale convective programs, and derechos are information restricted, so formal detection and attribution has not but been carried out,” explains Dr Wehner.

Professor Kevin Trenberth, a number one atmospheric scientist, makes an essential distinction for us regarding this query: “A key level right here is that there are usually not extra of those occasions (largely) however fairly the occasions that do happen are related to higher extremes on the nice and cozy facet for temperatures, and at each ends of the water cycle.”



Why are excessive climate occasions on the rise?

As highlighted by Dr Wehner, it’s effectively established that excessive climate occasions are and can proceed to extend due to local weather change.

Dr Walter Robinson, an knowledgeable in local weather science from North Carolina State College within the US, says, “Because the local weather warms, not surprisingly we see an increasing number of excessive warmth occasions”.

Heat climates then have knock-on results. Dr Robinson explains: “As a result of excessive warmth will increase evaporation, soils, and vegetation dry out quicker when it’s hotter. Thus, heatwaves are sometimes related to drought.”

Apparently, hotter climates could cause excessive precipitation in addition to droughts. Dr Walter goes on, “As temperatures enhance, the quantity of water vapor within the air, in moist situations, will increase (we are saying the environment can ‘maintain’ extra water vapor). It is a robust impact – roughly a 7 p.c enhance in water vapor (at saturation) for each diploma Celsius rise in temperature. As a result of atmospheric water vapor converts to rain in clouds, as local weather warms we count on the heaviest rains will turn out to be heavier. There’s robust observational proof that that is occurring.”


The impact of elevated temperature on cloud formation additionally influences excessive storms. Dr Walter says, “When water vapor condenses in clouds, it releases warmth. This ‘latent’ warmth gives the gasoline for a lot of sorts of storms: tropical cyclones (hurricanes) and unusual and extreme thunderstorms. It’s seemingly, due to this fact, that some storms have gotten extra violent as local weather warms – for instance, the strengths of the strongest tropical cyclones look like rising.”

He concludes, “There are numerous different methods by which local weather change can result in will increase in excessive climate. These are much less sure than the direct results of warmth, drying, and water-holding capability described above, nonetheless, and the subjects of very energetic analysis in local weather science.”

The takeaway

Excessive climate occasions like heatwaves, droughts, and excessive rainfall have gotten extra frequent on account of local weather change. Others, like snowstorms, are seemingly changing into much less frequent. Hurricanes are prone to turn out to be greater and longer-lasting, however truly fewer in quantity – however the observational proof for this isn’t but clear.

Article primarily based on four knowledgeable solutions to this query: ‘Are excessive climate occasions changing into extra frequent globally?’

This knowledgeable response was printed in partnership with unbiased fact-checking platform Subscribe to their weekly publication right here.



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