Climate change means more frequent droughts and floods, U.N. panel says in report
The report — the culmination of a two-year process involving 100 scientists and policy experts — suggests that researchers are far more confident about the prospect of more intense heat waves and heavy downpours than they are about how global warming is affecting hurricanes and tornadoes. But the new analysis also speaks to a broader trend: The world is facing a new reality of more extreme weather, and policymakers and business alike are beginning to adjust.
Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the report’s reviewers, said it highlights why climate change means more than just a gradual rise in the global temperature reading.
“The fact is, a small change in average temperature can have a big impact on extremes,” Meehl said in an interview. “It’s pretty straightforward. As average temperatures go up, it’s fairly obvious that heat extremes go up and [the number of] low extremes go down.”
Meehl co-authored a 2009 study showing that during the past decade the number of record highs in the United States outnumbered the record lows by an average of 2 to 1; historically, the two have been roughly even. Two Australian researchers last year found a similar trend between 1997 and 2009. more