Thursday, January 23, 2014

Searching for the Elusive Extreme Weather

The previous post raised -- again -- the issue of whether global warming (ahem, climate change) causes more extreme weather.  The US Environmental Protection Agency says "no"; indeed, in the lower 48 states, the greatest concentration of "heat waves" was in the 1930s:

If anything, global warming has created more pleasant summers:

"But what about storms?", I hear you say.  There's been no increased precipitation in the U.K., and storms haven't gotten stronger. Now comes a new study in the Hydrological Sciences Journal confirming the obvious (citations omitted): 
[R]eporting on hydro-meteorological disasters has improved significantly because of a denser satellite network, the Internet and international media, whereas earthquakes were recorded globally from terrestrial stations.  These improvements have introduced a bias in information access through time, which need to be addressed in trend analysis.  
Sure, property losses from floods and hurricanes have increased dramatically.  But that's because of ever denser lowland and sea-coast building, and near-free flood insuranceIn sum, the study concludes, "The scientific community needs to emphasize that the problem of flood losses is mostly about what we do on or to the landscape and that will be the case for decades to come."  In other words, stop trying to "cure" natural climate variability and focus on amelioration or adaptation.

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