Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Global warming has increased risk of record heat

Date:
September 5, 2013
Source:
Stanford University
Summary:
Researchers calculate that intense heat like that in the summer of 2012 is up to four times more likely to occur now than in pre-industrial America, when there was much less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Researchers calculate that intense heat like that in the summer of 2012 is up to four times more likely to occur now than in pre-industrial America, when there was much less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Credit: Tom Wang / Fotolia

Researchers calculate that intense heat like that in the summer of 2012 is up to four times more likely to occur now than in pre-industrial America, when there was much less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Drought shriveled crops in the Midwest, massive wildfires raged in the West and East Coast cities sweltered. The summer of 2012 was a season of epic proportions, especially July, the hottest month in the history of U.S. weather record keeping.

And it's likely that we'll continue to see such calamitous weather.

In the north-central and northeastern United States, extreme weather is more than four times as likely to occur than it was in the pre-industrial era, according to a new study by Noah Diffenbaugh, a Stanford associate professor of environmental Earth system science, and Martin Scherer, a research assistant in the department.

Diffenbaugh and Scherer found strong evidence that the high levels of greenhouse gases now in the atmosphere have increased the likelihood of severe heat such as occurred in the United States in 2012.

The researchers focused primarily on understanding the physical processes that created the hazardous weather. They looked at how rare those conditions were over the history of available weather records, going back over the last century.

Then, using climate models, they quantified how the risk of such damaging weather has changed in the current climate of high greenhouse gas concentrations, as opposed to an era of significantly lower concentrations and no global warming. Their findings don't pinpoint global warming as the cause of particular extreme weather events, but they do reveal the increasing risk of such events as the world warms.

"Going forward, if we want to understand and manage climate risks, it's more practically relevant to understand the likelihood of the hazard than to ask whether any particular disaster was caused by global warming," Diffenbaugh said.

In 2012 alone, the United States suffered 11 extreme weather events that each caused at least $1 billion in damage. "It's clear that our greenhouse gas emissions have increased the likelihood of some kinds of extremes, and it's clear that we're not optimally adapted to that new climate," Diffenbaugh said.

While Diffenbaugh cautions against trying to determine whether global warming caused any individual extreme event, the observed global warming clearly appears to have affected the likelihood of record heat, according to Diffenbaugh and Scherer.

The study, looking at the likelihood of July 2012 U.S. temperatures recurring, is part of a larger report edited by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and published Sept. 5 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The report includes studies of a dozen 2012 extreme weather events by research teams around the world, about half of which found some evidence that human-caused climate change contributed to an extreme weather event.

Close study of extreme weather events can help quantify the likelihood that society will face conditions similar to those that occurred in the summer of 2012, thereby informing efforts to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. Diffenbaugh argues that the new results can also help to quantify the true cost of emissions to society, since the cost of the disaster is measurable.

"Knowing how much our emissions have changed the likelihood of this kind of severe heat event can help us to minimize the impacts of the next heat wave, and to determine the value of avoiding further changes in climate," Diffenbaugh said.

Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original article was written by Rob Jordan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Diffenbaugh, N. S., and M. Scherer. Likelihood of July 2012 U.S. temperatures in pre-industrial and current forcing regimes [in “Explaining Extreme Events of 2012 from a Climate Perspective”].. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 2013; 94 (9): S6-S9

Cite This Page:

Stanford University. "Global warming has increased risk of record heat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905113651.htm>.
Stanford University. (2013, September 5). Global warming has increased risk of record heat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905113651.htm
Stanford University. "Global warming has increased risk of record heat." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130905113651.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Higgins Breaks Record at Mt. Washington

Driving Sports (July 24, 2014) Subaru Rally Team USA drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana face off against a global contingent of racers at the annual Mt. Washington Hillclimb in New Hampshire. Includes exclusive in-car footage from Higgins' record attempt. Video provided by Driving Sports
Powered by NewsLook.com
Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Storm Kills Three, Injures 20 at Virginia Campground

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) A likely tornado tears through an eastern Virginia campground, killing three and injuring at least 20. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins