Extremes of weather take many forms. Some places are facing more and more intense rain. Others are experiencing drought more regularly. Hot weather records are being broken more often, whereas the incidence of record low temperatures is decreasing.
One of the most visible consequences of a warming world is an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.
Extreme weather events have severe impacts on society and ecosystems in our current climate, and pose an increasing threat as climate changes. The number of extreme events which cause loss is affected by both changing human factors - such as growing population and increasing infrastructure - as well as natural variability of the climate.
Two opposing manifestations of climate change in relation to water - drought and flood - in some ways seem to contradict each other. However, they demonstrate that what we are dealing with is disruption to our climate at extreme levels and in many ways.
On this page I'm going to look at some examples of weather extremes that are strong evidence of climate change.
This page from the UK Met Office explains how they study extreme weather events, to see if climate change was a cause. These attribution studies help shape their understanding of climate change and its impacts.
They also provide this Global Climate Extremes Dashboard that presents global indices of moderate temperature and precipitation extremes calculated from historical observations of temperature and rainfall. The chart is an example from the dashboard.
Changes in rainfall extremes
One of the analyses that can be accessed via the Met Office's Global Climate Extremes Dashboard relates to the number of very heavy rainfall days.
Data shown in the chart are global averages from observation-based data sets.
On a global average, we see that there has been an increase of an extra half-day (so one extra day every two years) where the rainfall was over 20mm. The change in the length of the longest set of consecutive wet days is only around 0.25 days, but the increase in the total annual precipitation is over 50mm since the beginning of the 20th century.
Devastating flooding in Central Florida
Florida residents are no strangers to hurricanes.
But in the fall (autumn) of 2022 hurricanes dumped more rain on the region than anyone had seen in hundreds of years. Hurricane Ian was followed a few weeks later by Hurricane Nicola.
Preliminary studies concluded that human-induced climate change increased Hurricane Ian's rainfall rates by more than 10%, as reported by Stony Brook University and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
Catastrophes on the rise
In an article on "how to live with wild weather" the National Geographic Society describe how extreme weather phenomena can claim lives and cause untold damage.
As National Geographic point out "Climate change influences severe weather by causing longer droughts and higher temperatures in some regions and more intense deluges in others, say climate experts. Among the most vulnerable are communities in exposed mountain and coastal regions. In those settings worldwide, citizens are adjusting to new weather realities by strengthening warning, shelter, and protection systems".