Stormy weather: we’re making it worse, and there’s more on the way

by Gareth on November 20, 2011

The IPCC released the summary for policymakers of its Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) in Kampala, Uganda, on Friday (SPM, SREX site, launch presentation slides). The report concludes that globally there has been a significant decrease in cold days and nights and an overall increase in warm days and nights, that it’s likely that “anthropogenic influences” have led to warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures, and that heavy rainfall events are increasing in many areas. There has also been an increase in extreme coastal high water events.

The report also projects that it is “virtually certain” that increases in the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes will continue through this century, and that there will be corresponding decreases in cold extremes. It’s also very likely that heat waves and warm spells will become more frequent and warmer. Heavy rainfall events are also expected to increase, and the proportion of rain falling in those events is likely to increase. There are also likely to be more problems from storm surges and sea level rises, an increase in droughts, and landslides in mountainous regions.

Much of the report’s content will come as little surprise to those who have been following the subject — in common with previous IPCC reports the conclusions are conservative, couched in laboriously exact language, and exclude the most recent work1 — and for me the most interesting parts are the discussions of how extreme weather events interact with human populations to create disasters. In this respect, arguing about whether an event was “caused by” or “made worse by” warming is largely irrelevant to trying to find ways to reduce the impact of current and future extremes.

See also: Jeff Masters has an interesting post going into more detail about the report’s findings, RealClimate considers the report’s discussion of tropical cyclones, plus news reporting from the BBC, Guardian, and Reuters.

Meanwhile, the usual suspects are scrabbling around looking for ways to misrepresent the report’s findings. The most egregious to date comes from Nigel Lawson’s secretly-funded “Global Warming Policy Foundation”, who pick a paragraph out of context and pretend that it shows that…

According to a preliminary report released by the IPCC, there will be no detectable influence of mankind’s influence on the Earth’s weather systems for at least thirty years, and possibly not until the end of this century.

… which is not what the report says at all!

Finally, Green.TV and WeatherUnderground have launched a new twice monthly video on current global extreme weather events. Here’s the first episode:

Definitely one to follow with interest…

  1. Unavoidable, given the way these things are put together. []

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

CTG November 20, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I knew it all along. The IPCC is just trying to SREX up the science…

Gareth November 21, 2011 at 9:14 am

I’m waiting for the TREX (paleoclimate) report…

bill November 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Boom Boom!s all ’round! :-)

I’m (pleasantly) surprised the cut-and-paste brigade haven’t been serving up the fresh, steaming Denialati through-the-looking-glass interpretations of the report that have been doing the rounds.

Is it really possible that some leaps of cognitive dissonance are a bridge too far?

Gareth November 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

No, sorry. Take a look at Treadgold’s place for a truly stupendous effort to misunderstand and misrepresent the report. Apparently it shows we have nothing to worry about!

To suffer from cognitive dissonance you first have to exhibit cognition. Not much sign of that in the denialati…

Thomas November 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm

IT Sector hit by Thailand floods: working in the IT service industry I am keenly aware that the recent unprecedented flooding in Thailand has caused much more than disruptions of the rice harvest….
Adding to the devastation caused in Thailand is now a severe supply shortage of computer hard drives due to a breakdown in production and supply chains in Thailand. This has seen hard drive prices double in the recent weeks with shortages hitting some suppliers hard.

http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/244540/small_pc_makers_hiking_pc_prices_on_harddrive_shortage.html

The knock on effects of a wild weather driven by climate change are wider than many can imagine….

bill November 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm

This was also a concern for a ‘grey market’ camera lens I just ordered from Hong Kong – the vendor websites are full of reassurances that the parts are still available despite the flooding problems for Thailand’s high-tech industries.

(DX 10.5mm w i d e fisheye arrived safely in 4 days.)

Thomas November 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Ordering a “Fish Eye” lens ahead of prospective future flooding seems to suggest a superb level of preparedness… ;-)

Lulu12 November 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm

“We’re making it worse and there’s more on the way,” So why aren’t we doing anything about it New Zealand??

Go to http://www.electwho.org.nz to see what candidates and parties have to say about taking action on climate change.

Nga mihi nui

Lucinda

David Lewis November 30, 2011 at 7:54 am

Hansen has a paper out http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20111110_NewClimateDice.pdf with his way of explaining how it can be shown that climate change is already causing increased frequency of extreme events. He’s been using an analogy of humans loading the climate dice since his Congressional testimony of 1988. Quoting from the latest paper:

“The increasing greenhouse gases will cause the rapid global warming of the past three decades to continue, and this warming will cause the climate dice to become more and more loaded with greater and greater extreme events. The probability that this conclusion is wrong is about as close to zero as one can get”.

If you changed all the dice at a casino to ones that were “loaded” so the house would lose, when the owners found out about it, they wouldn’t be saying this win by this customer or that win by that customer can’t be attributed to the “loaded” dice. They’d know all activity at the casino had been affected. The Hansen “loaded dice” analogy is a good one.

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