By Seth Borenstein
Freakish weather disasters — from the sudden October snowstorm in the Northeast U.S. to the record floods in Thailand — are striking more often. And global warming is likely to spawn more similar weather extremes at a huge cost, says a draft summary of an international climate report obtained by The Associated Press.
The final draft of the report from a panel of the world’s top climate scientists paints a wild future for a world already weary of weather catastrophes costing billions of dollars. The report says costs will rise and perhaps some locations will become “increasingly marginal as places to live.”
The report from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be issued in a few weeks, after a meeting in Uganda. It says there is at least a 2-in-3 probability that climate extremes have already worsened because of man-made greenhouse gases.
This marks a change in climate science from focusing on subtle changes in daily average temperatures to concentrating on the harder-to-analyze freak events that grab headlines, cause economic damage and kill people. The most recent bizarre weather extreme, the pre-Halloween snowstorm, is typical of the damage climate scientists warn will occur — but it’s not typical of the events they tie to global warming.
“The extremes are a really noticeable aspect of climate change,” said Jerry Meehl, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “I think people realize that the extremes are where we are going to see a lot of the impacts of climate change.”