New Research Explores Extreme Weather, Climate Change Link

A new study by NOAA and UK Met Office scientists makes the link between global warming and extreme weather events.

The paper, Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective, looks at six global extreme weather and climate events from 2011, including last year’s drought in Texas.

Key takeaways from the paper are:

— Determining the causes of extreme events remains difficult. While scientists cannot trace specific events to climate change with absolute certainty, new and continued research help scientists understand how the probability of extreme events change in response to global warming.

— La Nià ±a-related heat waves, like that experienced in Texas in 2011, are now 20 times more likely to occur during La Nià ±a years today than La Nià ±a years fifty years ago.

— The UK experienced a very warm November 2011 and a very cold December 2010. In analyzing these two very different events, UK scientists uncovered interesting changes in the odds. Cold Decembers are now half as likely to occur now versus fifty years ago, whereas warm Novembers are now 62 times more likely.

— Climate change cannot be shown to have played any role in the 2011 floods on the Chao Phraya River that flooded Bangkok, Thailand. Although the flooding was unprecedented, the amount of rain that fell in the river “catchment† area was not very unusual. Other factors, such as changes in reservoir policies and increased construction on the flood plain, were found most relevant in setting the scale of the disaster.

The  New York Times has more on the study findings.

Release of the study comes along with NOAA’s 2011 State of the Climate report which found that worldwide 2011 was the coolest year on record since 2008, yet temperatures remained above the
30 year average.

NOAA’s climate report also provides details on a number of global extreme events from last year, including the Thailand floods, drought and tornado outbreaks in the U.S., floods in Brazil and the summer heat wave in central and southern Europe.

In the words of Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan:

2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world. Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment. This annual report provides scientists and citizens alike with an analysis of what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come.†

Check out information from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)Â  on climate change and insurance.

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