Extreme weather

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Extreme weather includes unexpected, unusual, unpredictable, severe or unseasonal weather; weather at the extremes of the historical distribution—the range that has been seen in the past. [1] Often, extreme events are based on a location's recorded weather history and defined as lying in the most unusual ten percent. [2] In recent years some extreme weather events have been attributed to human-induced global warming, [3] [4] [5] with studies indicating an increasing threat from extreme weather in the future. [6] [7]

Contents

Damage

A tornado that struck Anadarko, Oklahoma during a tornado outbreak in 1999 Dszpics1.jpg
A tornado that struck Anadarko, Oklahoma during a tornado outbreak in 1999

According to IPCC (2011) estimates of annual losses have ranged since 1980 from a few billion to above US$200 billion (in 2010 dollars), with the highest value for 2005 (the year of Hurricane Katrina). [8] The global weather-related disaster losses, such as loss of human lives, cultural heritage, and ecosystem services, are difficult to value and monetize, and thus they are poorly reflected in estimates of losses. [9] [10]

Extreme temperatures

Heat waves

2003 European heat wave Canicule Europe 2003.jpg
2003 European heat wave

Heat waves are periods of abnormally high temperatures and heat index. Definitions of a heatwave vary because of the variation of temperatures in different geographic locations. [11] Excessive heat is often accompanied by high levels of humidity, but can also be catastrophically dry. [12]

Because heat waves are not visible as other forms of severe weather are, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and thunderstorms, they are one of the less known forms of extreme weather. [13] Severe heat weather can damage populations and crops due to potential dehydration or hyperthermia, heat cramps, heat expansion and heat stroke. Dried soils are more susceptible to erosion, decreasing lands available for agriculture. Outbreaks of wildfires can increase in frequency as dry vegetation has increased likeliness of igniting. The evaporation of bodies of water can be devastating to marine populations, decreasing the size of the habitats available as well as the amount of nutrition present within the waters. Livestock and other animal populations may decline as well.

During excessive heat plants shut their leaf pores (stomata), a protective mechanism to conserve water but also curtails plants' absorption capabilities. This leaves more pollution and ozone in the air, which leads to higher mortality in the population. It has been estimated that extra pollution during the hot summer 2006 in the UK, cost 460 lives. [14] The European heat waves from summer 2003 are estimated to have caused 30,000 excess deaths, due to heat stress and air pollution. [15] Over 200 U.S cities have registered new record high temperatures. [16] The worst heatwave in the USA occurred in 1936 and killed more than 5000 people directly. The worst heat wave in Australia occurred in 1938–39 and killed 438. The second worst was in 1896.

Power outages can also occur within areas experiencing heat waves due to the increased demand for electricity (i.e. air conditioning use). [17] The urban heat island effect can increase temperatures, particularly overnight. [18]

Cold waves

Cold wave in continental North America from Dec-03 to Dec-10, 2013. Red color means above mean temperature; blue represents below normal temperature. Lst neo 20131203-20131210.jpg
Cold wave in continental North America from Dec-03 to Dec-10, 2013. Red color means above mean temperature; blue represents below normal temperature.

A cold wave is a weather phenomenon that is distinguished by a cooling of the air. Specifically, as used by the U.S. National Weather Service, a cold wave is a rapid fall in temperature within a 24-hour period requiring substantially increased protection to agriculture, industry, commerce, and social activities. The precise criterion for a cold wave is determined by the rate at which the temperature falls, and the minimum to which it falls. This minimum temperature is dependent on the geographical region and time of year. [19] Cold waves generally are capable of occurring any geological location and are formed by large cool air masses that accumulate over certain regions, caused by movements of air streams. [11]

A cold wave can cause death and injury to livestock and wildlife. Exposure to cold mandates greater caloric intake for all animals, including humans, and if a cold wave is accompanied by heavy and persistent snow, grazing animals may be unable to reach necessary food and water, and die of hypothermia or starvation. Cold waves often necessitate the purchase of fodder for livestock at considerable cost to farmers. [11] Human populations can be inflicted with frostbites when exposed for extended periods of time to cold and may result in the loss of limbs or damage to internal organs.

Extreme winter cold often causes poorly insulated water pipes to freeze. Even some poorly protected indoor plumbing may rupture as frozen water expands within them, causing property damage. Fires, paradoxically, become more hazardous during extreme cold. Water mains may break and water supplies may become unreliable, making firefighting more difficult. [11]

Cold waves that bring unexpected freezes and frosts during the growing season in mid-latitude zones can kill plants during the early and most vulnerable stages of growth. This results in crop failure as plants are killed before they can be harvested economically. Such cold waves have caused famines. Cold waves can also cause soil particles to harden and freeze, making it harder for plants and vegetation to grow within these areas. One extreme was the so-called Year Without a Summer of 1816, one of several years during the 1810s in which numerous crops failed during freakish summer cold snaps after volcanic eruptions reduced incoming sunlight.

Global warming

In general, climate models show that with climate change, the planet will experience more extreme weather. [20] In particular temperature record highs outpace record lows and some types of extreme weather such as extreme heat, intense precipitation, and drought have become more frequent and severe in recent decades. [21] Some studies assert a connection between rapidly warming arctic temperatures and thus a vanishing cryosphere to extreme weather in mid-latitudes. [22] [23] [24] [25]

Heat stress

In the PNAS, Steven C. Sherwood and Matthew Huber state that humans and other mammals cannot tolerate a wet-bulb temperature of over 35 °C for extended periods, and that this "would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7 °C ... With 11–12 °C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed. Eventual warmings of 12 °C are possible from fossil fuel burning." [26]

Tropical cyclones

NASA film In Katrina's Wake, covering the impacts from Hurricane Katrina.

There has been long ongoing debate about a possible increase of tropical cyclones as an effect of global warming. [27] However, the 2012 IPCC special report on extreme events SREX states that "there is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities." [28] Increases in population densities increase the number of people affected and damage caused by an event of given severity. The World Meteorological Organization [29] and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [30] have in the past linked increasing extreme weather events to global warming, as have Hoyos et al. (2006), writing that the increasing number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes is directly linked to increasing temperatures. [31] Similarly, Kerry Emanuel in Nature writes that hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with temperature, reflecting global warming. [32]

Hurricane modeling has produced similar results, finding that hurricanes, simulated under warmer, high CO2 conditions, are more intense than under present-day conditions. Thomas Knutson and Robert E. Tuleya of the NOAA stated in 2004 that warming-induced by greenhouse gas may lead to the increasing occurrence of highly destructive category-5 storms. [33] Vecchi and Soden find that wind shear, the increase of which acts to inhibit tropical cyclones, also changes in model-projections of global warming. There are projected increases of wind shear in the tropical Atlantic and East Pacific associated with the deceleration of the Walker circulation, as well as decreases of wind shear in the western and central Pacific. [34] The study does not make claims about the net effect on Atlantic and East Pacific hurricanes of the warming and moistening atmospheres, and the model-projected increases in Atlantic wind shear. [35]

See also

Related Research Articles

Attribution of recent climate change

Attribution of recent climate change is the effort to scientifically ascertain mechanisms responsible for recent global warming and related climate changes on Earth. The effort has focused on changes observed during the period of instrumental temperature record, particularly in the last 50 years. This is the period when human activity has grown fastest and observations of the atmosphere above the surface have become available. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is "extremely likely" that human influence was the dominant cause of global warming between 1951 and 2010. The best estimate is that observed warming since 1951 has been entirely human caused.

Cyclone large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low pressure

In meteorology, a cyclone is a large scale air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure. Cyclones are characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate about a zone of low pressure. The largest low-pressure systems are polar vortices and extratropical cyclones of the largest scale. Warm-core cyclones such as tropical cyclones and subtropical cyclones also lie within the synoptic scale. Mesocyclones, tornadoes, and dust devils lie within smaller mesoscale. Upper level cyclones can exist without the presence of a surface low, and can pinch off from the base of the tropical upper tropospheric trough during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere. Cyclones have also been seen on extraterrestrial planets, such as Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. Cyclogenesis is the process of cyclone formation and intensification. Extratropical cyclones begin as waves in large regions of enhanced mid-latitude temperature contrasts called baroclinic zones. These zones contract and form weather fronts as the cyclonic circulation closes and intensifies. Later in their life cycle, extratropical cyclones occlude as cold air masses undercut the warmer air and become cold core systems. A cyclone's track is guided over the course of its 2 to 6 day life cycle by the steering flow of the subtropical jet stream.

A heat wave, or heatwave, is a period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity, especially in oceanic climate countries. While definitions vary, a heat wave is usually measured relative to the usual weather in the area and relative to normal temperatures for the season. Temperatures that people from a hotter climate consider normal can be called a heat wave in a cooler area if they are outside the normal climate pattern for that area.

This is a list of meteorology topics. The terms relate to meteorology, the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and forecasting.

Effects of global warming Describes the effects created by global warming

The effects of global warming are the environmental and social changes caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. There is a broad scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, and that human activities are the primary driver. Many physical impacts of climate change have already been observed, including extreme weather events, glacier retreat, changes in the timing of seasonal events, changes in agricultural productivity, sea level rise, and declines in Arctic sea ice extent. The physical effects of human-caused climate change depends on the extent of prevention efforts. Ocean acidification is not a consequence of global warming, but instead has the same cause: increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Global warming Current rise in Earths average temperature and its effects

Global warming is the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system. It is a major aspect of climate change, and has been demonstrated by direct temperature measurements and by measurements of various effects of the warming. The terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably. However, speaking more accurately, global warming denotes the mainly human-caused increase in global surface temperatures and its projected continuation, but climate change includes both global warming and its effects, such as changes in precipitation. While there have been prehistoric periods of global warming, many observed changes since the mid-20th century have been unprecedented over decades to millennia.

Tropical cyclogenesis

Tropical cyclogenesis is the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone in the atmosphere. The mechanisms through which tropical cyclogenesis occurs are distinctly different from those through which temperate cyclogenesis occurs. Tropical cyclogenesis involves the development of a warm-core cyclone, due to significant convection in a favorable atmospheric environment.

Extratropical cyclone type of cyclone

Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are low-pressure areas which, along with the anticyclones of high-pressure areas, drive the weather over much of the Earth. Extratropical cyclones are capable of producing anything from cloudiness and mild showers to heavy gales, thunderstorms, blizzards, and tornadoes. These types of cyclones are defined as large scale (synoptic) low pressure weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth. In contrast with tropical cyclones, extratropical cyclones produce rapid changes in temperature and dew point along broad lines, called weather fronts, about the center of the cyclone.

Tropical cyclone rotating storm system with a closed, low-level circulation

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain or squalls. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

Atlantic multidecadal oscillation A climate cycle that affects the surface temperature of the North Atlantic

The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), also known as Atlantic Multidecadal Variability (AMV), is a climate cycle that affects the sea surface temperature (SST) of the North Atlantic Ocean based on different modes on multidecadal timescales. While there is some support for this mode in models and in historical observations, controversy exists with regard to its amplitude, and in particular, the attribution of sea surface temperature change to natural or anthropogenic causes, especially in tropical Atlantic areas important for hurricane development. The Atlantic multidecadal oscillation is also connected with shifts in hurricane activity, rainfall patterns and intensity, and changes in fish populations.

The effects of global warming on South Asia include steady sea level rise, increased cyclonic activity, and changes in ambient temperature and precipitation patterns. Increased landslides and flooding are projected to have an impact upon states such as Assam. Ongoing sea level rises have already submerged several low-lying islands in the Sundarbans, displacing thousands of people. The first among the countries to be affected by severe climate change is Bangladesh. Its sea level, temperature and evaporation are increasing, and the changes in precipitation and cross boundary river flows are already beginning to cause drainage congestion. There is a reduction in fresh water availability, disturbance of morphological processes and a higher intensity of flooding. Regarding local temperature rises, the IPCC figure projected for the mean annual increase in temperature by the end of the century in South Asia is 3.3 °C with the min-max range as 2.7 – 4.7 °C. The mean value for Tibet would be higher with mean increase of 3.8 °C and min-max figures of 2.6 and 6.1 °C respectively which implies harsher warming conditions for the Himalayan watersheds. India's GDP could decline by up to 9%, due to shifting growing seasons for major crops such as rice, production of which could fall by 40%. Around seven million people are projected to be displaced due to, among other factors, submersion of parts of Mumbai and Chennai, if global temperatures were to rise by a mere 2 °C (3.6 °F)

Natural disasters in India

Natural disasters in India, many of them related to the climate of India, cause massive losses of life and property. Droughts, flash floods, cyclones, avalanches, landslides brought by torrential rains, and snowstorms pose the greatest threats. A natural disaster might be caused by earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruption, landslides, hurricanes etc. In order to be classified as a disaster it will have profound environmental effect and/or human loss and frequently incurs financial loss. Other dangers include frequent summer dust storms, which usually track from north to south; they cause extensive property damage in North India and deposit large amounts of dust from arid regions. Hail is also common in parts of India, causing severe damage to standing crops such as rice and wheat and many more crops.

Polar amplification

Polar amplification is the phenomenon that any change in the net radiation balance tends to produce a larger change in temperature near the poles than the planetary average. On a planet with an atmosphere that can restrict emission of longwave radiation to space, surface temperatures will be warmer than a simple planetary equilibrium temperature calculation would predict. Where the atmosphere or an extensive ocean is able to transport heat polewards, the poles will be warmer and equatorial regions cooler than their local net radiation balances would predict.  

Regional effects of global warming

Regional effects of global warming are long-term significant changes in the expected patterns of average weather of a specific region due to global warming. The world average temperature is rising due to the greenhouse effect caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. When the global temperature changes, the changes in climate are not expected to be uniform across the Earth. In particular, land areas change more quickly than oceans, and northern high latitudes change more quickly than the tropics, and the margins of biome regions change faster than do their cores.

Human-caused climate change causes a wide variety of physical impacts on the climate system. The physical impacts of climate change foremost include globally rising temperatures of the lower atmosphere, the land and oceans. Temperature rise is not uniform, with land masses and the Arctic region warming faster than the global average. Effects on weather encompass increased heavy precipitation, reduced amounts of cold days, increase in heat waves and various effects on tropical cyclones. The enhanced greenhouse effect causes the higher part of the atmosphere, the stratosphere to cool. Geochemical cycles are also impacted, with absorption of CO
2
causing ocean acidification, and rising ocean water decreasing the ocean's ability to absorb further carbon dioxide. Annual snow cover has decreased, sea ice is declining and widespread melting of glaciers is underway. Thermal expansion and glacial retreat cause sea levels to increase. Retreat of ice mass may impact various geological processes as well, such as volcanism and earthquakes. Increased temperatures and other human interference with the climate system can lead to tipping points to be crossed such as the collapse of the thermohaline circulation or the Amazon rainforest. Some of these physical impacts also effect social and economic systems.

Climate change, industry and society

This article is about climate change, industry and society.

Tropical cyclones and climate change confluent article on tropical cyclones and climate change

Tropical cyclones and climate change concerns how tropical cyclones have changed, and are expected to further change due to climate change. The topic receives considerable attention from climate scientists who study the connections between storms and climate, and notably since 2005 makes news during active storm seasons. The 2018 U.S. National Climate Change Assessment reported that "increases in greenhouse gases and decreases in air pollution have contributed to increases in Atlantic hurricane activity since 1970."

Meteorological history of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was the fifth-costliest Atlantic hurricane on record. It lasted for over a week in late October-early November 2012. Classified as the eighteenth named storm, tenth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the annual hurricane season, Sandy originated from a tropical wave on October 22. Performing a small loop over the central Caribbean Sea, the system intensified into a tropical storm a day later and became the final hurricane of the season before briefly coming ashore the coast of Jamaica on October 24. After emerging between Jamaica and Cuba, Sandy began a period of rapid intensification into a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). It made landfall at this intensity near Santiago de Cuba on October 25.

Effects of global warming on humans Impact of climate change on humanity

Climate change has brought about possibly permanent alterations to Earth's geological, biological and ecological systems. These changes have led to the emergence of large-scale environmental hazards to human health, such as extreme weather, ozone depletion, increased danger of wildland fires, loss of biodiversity, stresses to food-producing systems and the global spread of infectious diseases. In addition, climatic changes are estimated to cause over 150,000 deaths annually.

In 2018, several heat waves with temperatures far above the long-time average and droughts were recorded in the Northern Hemisphere: The earth's average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth highest in the 140 years of record keeping. It is assumed that the jet stream is slowing down, trapping cloudless, windless and extremely hot regions of high pressure. The jet stream anomalies could be caused by polar amplification, one of the observed effects of global warming.

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Further reading