New Data Confirms Increasingly Frequent Extreme Weather Events

World | Climate Change

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

New data published this week shows that man-made climate change has resulted in increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as excess rainfall leading to flooding, coastal flooding, heatwaves, and increased risks of wildfires.

According to a new study published this week by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) titled Extreme weather events in Europe: Preparing for climate change adaptation: an update on EASAC’s 2013 study, new data shows that extreme weather events have become more frequent over the past 36 years. Specifically, the new figures show that there has been a significant increase in hydrological events as compared even with just five years ago.

Conversely, however, the authors of the study believe that climate proofing can help to limit the impact of these extreme weather events and that European leaders and policymakers must improve climate change adaptation across the region’s infrastructure and social systems.

“Our 2013 Extreme Weather Events report – which was based on the findings of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute – has been updated and the latest data supports our original conclusions: there has been and continues to be a significant increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, making climate proofing all the more urgent,” said Professor Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Programme Director. “Adaptation and mitigation must remain the cornerstones of tackling climate change. This update is most timely since the European Commission is due to release its evaluation of its climate strategy this year.”

The report, which is an update on a 2013 report by the same body, “confirms the earlier conclusions on the importance of increasing the adaptability of Europe’s infrastructure and social systems to a changing climate.” Members of the original expert group who penned the 2013 report updated some of the figures upon which the original report was based to include four more years of additional data, which only served to show that the confirm the previously observed trends. Specifically, “climate-related extreme events are rising” and there were “particularly sharp rises in hydrological events.”

Another significant finding from the report focused on whether or not the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) will continue to decline, or potentially even just “switch off.” This would obviously have enormous implications for Northwest Europe’s climate.

Recent monitoring does suggest that there has been “significant weakening” of the AMOC, but there is still significant debate over the potential for it to simply switch off due to the increased flows of fresh water from northern latitudes as a result of rainfall and the melting of the Greenland icecap. The EASAC authors highlighted the need for continued monitoring to prove a better forecast for the AMOC.

“However, evidence on AMOC and the effects of amplified Arctic warming continue to emerge from ongoing research and monitoring programmes,” the authors of the report also concluded. “In view of the importance of these large-scale phenomena to Europe’s climate, EASAC will keep a watching brief on this and other findings to provide further updates in the future.”

The full addendum report is available here (PDF). EASAC is formed by the national science academies of the EU Member States, Norway, and Switzerland, to collaborate in giving advice to European policy-makers.