Extreme weather and climate events, such as heat waves, storms and droughts, have increased in recent decades, and they are becoming more frequent and more severe across the world.
“A lot of the research has shown that [weather is becoming more extreme]. As the globe starts to change, extremes may become the norm,” Nicholas Metz, a professor of geoscience at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York tells TechKnow.
But why has extreme weather increased in recent years? And what is the hidden cost of climate change and severe weather?
Weather is the shirt that you put on today, but climate is your whole wardrobe. Today, we are breaking up the rain slickers.
In this episode of TechKnow, we meet scientists in the US who are at the forefront of investigating extreme weather events and climate change. We also look at the growing field of attribution science which determines if wild weather is in fact, just that, or whether climate change is to blame.
“The scientists [are] trying to understand the science as fast as we can, but the choices that humans make are going to be the thing that determines how fast we can fix this problem,” says Dr Kimberly Prather, an atmospheric chemist at SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography in California, who is studying how particles like dust and sea spray influence weather patterns.
Utimately, she and her team hope to be able to predict weather through better understanding ocean aerosols.
“If we can sort of fly through and directly determine which aerosols are making the clouds, what makes the cloud, and really improve the model treatment, and be able to predict where the clouds are, this will be a huge, huge effect on our ability to really understand what temperatures we’re going to be facing in the future.”
With escalating numbers of severe weather events, the damages and the economic costs associated with extreme weather have also increased.
A recent report based on US government statistics calculated that billion-dollar weather disasters are growing by five percent a year. In the US, up to 3,000 severe storms, often with hail, occur every year and are costing $1bn annually.
We head to a lab big enough to hold nine football fields, where scientists can simulate the effects of all kinds of violent weather. Run by the non-profit Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, the research is going towards influencing builders to build better.
Julie Rochman, CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, says: “We want to show people how to design, build, repair, replace property better, safer and stronger against the worst Mother Nature has to offer…. With every passing year, Mother Nature hands us another large data point, so every data point that we get points us towards a different trend and a different definition of extreme – that’s we want to be prepared for.”