A new study shows global warming is already having significant impacts on Earth in the form of more severe weather events, which will just continue to get worse as climate change continues to further rear its ugly head. Scientists published a report in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 27 which outlines how moderate global warming caused by emissions since the Industrial Revolution has already quadrupled the frequency of some heat extremes. According to The New York Times, the report also warns that a failure to control emissions could one day lead to a 62-fold increase in these major heat events. They also noted global warming has driven up the frequency of intense rainstorms by 22 percent since the 19th century–a number that could double in this century if things continue on their current path.
“People can argue that we had these kinds of extremes well before human influence on the climate–we had them centuries ago,” study lead author, Erich M. Fischer told the New York Times. “And that’s correct. But the odds have changed, and we get more of them.”
The study, recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change, isn’t the first to point out that emissions are causing extreme weather events. However, it is the only report to date that actually provides a global forecast for how extreme weather events could change as global warming worsens.
Due to their relative infrequency, extreme weather events are difficult to put into a pattern. Dr. Fischer, along with his colleague Dr. Reto Nutti of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, looked at common heat and precipitation extremes, then used computer models to see what the climate would have been like if the Industrial Revolution hadn’t happened. They then focused on weather extremes that would be likely to happen at a particular location on Earth about once in 1,000 days.
That a warming planet would drive up temperatures isn’t hard to fathom, but the increase in extreme precipitation is not quite so intuitive. “The bottom lie is that things are not that complicated,” Knutti said. “You make the world a degree or two warmer, and there will be more hot days. There will be more moisture in the atmosphere, so that must come down somewhere.”