Extreme Weather Events and Global Warming

Aug 14th, 2012 | By | Category: General

Summary. We are experiencing an increased perception of extreme weather events in recent years. Here we discuss two new research papers confirming, by rigorous statistical analysis, that recent heat waves are unprecedented in history. With a very high probability, these events are attributed to long-term global warming . Extreme events such as heat waves and heavy precipitation inflict severe damages on affected communities and lead to emergency needs for relief and restitution. As an alternative the nations of the world should undertake preventive investments that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the need for future relief expenses.

Introduction. There have been many news items describing various weather- or climate-related catastrophes, seemingly with increasing frequency and increasing severity, and having increasingly serious human and economic consequences. Many of us readily suspect that the long-term increase in the global average temperature plays a role in these disasters, while others maintain that there is no connection. This post summarizes recent scientific publications that conclude that the temperature increase causes at least a part of the extreme weather that leads to these catastrophes.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the product obtained when humans burn fossil fuels for energy.  CO2 is a greenhouse gas, meaning that its presence in the atmosphere traps heat produced by incident sunlight, preventing its release back into space.  Although CO2 has been present in the atmosphere for millions of years, the amount added since the industrial revolution began has been steadily increasing, and continues to do so even at the present time.  This is because the worldwide use offossil fuels has been growing at an ever-increasing rate since the industrial revolution began.

Climate scientists over the past several decades have developed climate models to reproduce past global temperature trends and predict future trends.  Models correctly reflect the temperature increases of recent decades when the additional CO2 from burning fossil fuels is included, but they fail to show the increases when this CO2 is omitted.  With this success at reproducing past behavior, scientists use climate models to project future developments.  These predict increasing extremes of weather and climate, including generally higher temperatures, and higher likelihoods of heat waves and droughts, or of intense rainfall and floods, depending on geographic location on Earth.

For more on this story, visit: Global Warming Blog by Henry Auer: Extreme Weather Events and Global Warming.

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