Climate Change and...
Effects of Climate Change
- Climate Variability
- Climate Models
Effects of Climate Change
ABSTRACT: Based upon trends in observed climate, extreme events are thought to be increasing in frequency and/or magnitude. This change in extreme events is attributed to enhancement of the hydrologic cycle caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations. Results are presented of relatively long (50 yr) regional climate model simulations of the western United States examining the sensitivity of climate and extreme events to a doubling of preindustrial atmospheric CO2 concentrations. These results indicate a shift in the temperature distribution, resulting in fewer cold days and more hot days; the largest changes occur at high elevations. The rainfall distribution is also affected; total rain increases as a result of increases in rainfall during the spring season and at higher elevations. The risk of flooding is generally increased, as is the severity of droughts and heat waves. These results, combined with results of decreased snowpack and increased evaporation, could further stress the water supply of the western United States.
ABSTRACT: River systems in semiarid regions are susceptible to rapid and dramatic channel erosion and arroyo formation. Climate plays an important role in arroyo development through changes in precipitation intensity, seasonality, and variability. Here, trends in precipitation and streamflow at the annual, monthly, and daily timescales for the last 50 yr are analyzed for the Rio Puerco Basin in northwestern New Mexico, and connections with recent watershed and channel changes are examined. The increasing trend in annual precipitation in the basin is shown to be part of larger-scale climatic variability that affects the U.S. Southwest region, which is associated with climatic anomalies in the northern Pacific. Results of hydroclimatic data analyses point to a general increase in wetness in nonsummer months—an increase in the number of rainy days and in the frequency of flow days in the stream system is observed. There are substantial shifts in the distributions of both daily precipitation and streamflow. Rainfall with moderate intensity has been increasing, while the intensity of annual maximum rainfall events has remained largely unaffected. At the same time, the number of annual maximum runoff events in the basin has been steadily decreasing in the studied period. It is argued that recent watershed and arroyo changes that affect the rainfall–runoff relationship in the basin may be responsible for the decreasing trend in maximum runoff events. Field evidence of such changes in the Rio Puerco watershed and fluvial system is discussed.
ABSTRACT: Alpine glacier retreat resulting from global warming since the close of the Little Ice Age in the 19th and 20th centuries has increased the risk and incidence of some geologic and hydrologic hazards in mountainous alpine regions of North America. Abundant loose debris in recently deglaciated areas at the toe of alpine glaciers provides a ready source of sediment during rainstorms or outburst floods. This sediment can cause debris flows and sedimentation problems in downstream areas. Moraines built during the Little Ice Age can trap and store large volumes of water. These natural dams have no controlled outlets and can fail without warning. Many glacier-dammed lakes have grown in size, while ice dams have shrunk, resulting in greater risks of ice-dam failure. The retreat and thinning of glacier ice has left oversteepened, unstable valley walls and has led to increased incidence of rock and debris avalanches.
ABSTRACT: The paper explores the distinction between climate and climate change. Adaptation to current climate variability has been proposed as an additional way to approach adaptation to long-term climate change. In effect improved adaptation to current climate is a step in preparation for longer term climate change. International programs of research and assessment are separately organized to deal with natural disasters and climate change. There is no scientific concensus so far, that extreme events have changed in frequency on a world-wide basis, although some regional changes have occured. It is extremely unlikely that significant shifts in the means of weather distrbutions will take place without shifts in the tails. In some situations it may make more sense to focus on adaptation to extreme events and the tails of distributions. In other circumstances adaptation to the norms is the logical focus. The relationship between normal climate and climate change is examined in terms of single and complex variables and phenomena. It is proposed that the research communities studying adaptation to extreme events and adaptation to climate change work more closely together, perhaps in a newly organized joint research program.
ABSTRACT: High-frequency climate variability is a fundamental aspect of climate. Understanding climate change demands attention to changes in climate variability and extremes1 , but knowledge of the recent behaviour of these variables has been limited by the unavailability of long-term high-resolution data. Climate simulations incorporating increased greenhouse-gas concentrations2-9 indicate that a warmer climate could result in a decrease in high-frequency temperature variability (analogous to the decrease in variability observed from the poles to the tropics, and from winter to summer10 ) and an increase in the proportion of precipitation occurring in extreme events. Here we analyse high-frequency temperature and precipitation data from hundreds of sites spread over Australia, China, the former Soviet Union and the United States over the past 30 to 80 years. Day-to-day temperature variability is seen to have decreased in the Northern Hemisphere, and-at least within the United States-the proportion of total precipitation contributed by extreme, one-day events has increased significantly. We find that although the notion of a recent increase in interannual temperature variability is supported by data from the past few decades11 , the longer data records indicate that this trend is an aberration.
ABSTRACT: Human emissions of greenhouse gases are already changing our climate. This paper provides an overview of the relation between climate change and weather extremes, and examines three specific cases where recent acute events have stimulated debate on the potential role of climate change: the European heatwave of 2003; the risk of inland flooding, such as recently in Central Europe and Great Britain; and the harsh Atlantic hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. Furthermore, it briefly assesses the relation between climate change and El Niño, and the potential of abrupt climate change. Several trends in weather extremes are sufficiently clear to inform risk reduction efforts. In many instances, however, the potential increases in extreme events due to climate change come on top of alarming rises in vulnerability. Hence, the additional risks due to climate change should not be analysed or treated in isolation, but instead integrated into broader efforts to reduce the risk of natural disasters.
ABSTRACT: Increases in key measures of Atlantic hurricane activity over recent decades are believed to reflect, in large part, contemporaneous increases in tropical Atlantic warmth [e.g., Emanuel, 2005]. Some recent studies [e.g., Goldenberg et al., 2001] have attributed these increases to a natural climate cycle termed the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), while other studies suggest that climate change may instead be playing the dominant role [Emanuel, 2005; Webster et al., 2005]. Using a formal statistical analysis to separate the estimated influences of anthropogenic climate change from possible natural cyclical influences, this article presents results indicating that anthropogenic fators are likely responsible for long-term trends in tropical Atlantic warmth and tropical cyclone activity. In addition, this analysis indicates that late twentieth century tropospheric aerosol cooling has offset a substantial fraction of anthropogenic warming in the region and has thus likely suppressed even greater potential increases in tropical cyclone activity.
ABSTRACT: The power of Atlantic tropical cyclones is rising rather dramatically and the increase is correlated with an increase in the late summer/early fall sea surface temperature over the North Atlantic. A debate concerns the nature of these increases with some studies attributing them to a natural climate fluctuation, known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), and others suggesting climate change related to anthropogenic increases in radiative forcing from greenhouse-gases. Here tests for causality using the global mean near-surface air temperature (GT) and Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) records during the Atlantic hurricane season are applied. Results show that GT is useful in predicting Atlantic SST, but not the other way around. Thus GT “causes” SST providing additional evidence in support of the climate change hypothesis. Results have serious implications for life and property throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and portions of the United States.
ABSTRACT: This paper examines contemporary national scale responses to tropical storm risk in a small island in the Caribbean to derive lessons for adapting to climate change. There is little empirical evidence to guide national planners on how to adapt to climate change, and less still on how to build on past adaptation experiences. The paper investigates the construction of institutional resilience and the process of adaptation to tropical storm risk by the Cayman Islands’ Government from 1988 to 2002. It explains the roles of persuasion, exposure and collective action as key components in developing the ability to buffer external disturbance using models of institutional economics and social resilience concepts. The study finds that self-efficacy, strong local and international support networks, combined with a willingness to act collectively and to learn from mistakes appear to have increased the resilience of the Cayman Islands’ Government to tropical storm risk. The lessons learned from building resilience to storm risk can contribute to the creation of national level adaptive capacity to climate change, but climate change has to be prioritised before these lessons can be transferred.
D. Scavia, J. C. Field, D. F. Boesch, R. W. Buddemeier, V. Burkett, D. R. Cayan, M.Fogarty, M. A. Harwell, R. W. Howarth, C. Mason, D. J. Reed, T. C. Royer, A. H. Sallenger, J. G. Titus (2002). Climate change impacts on U.S. coastal and marine ecosystems. Estuaries and Coasts 25 (2): 149-164
ABSTRACT: Increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases projected for the 21st century are expected to lead to increased mean global air and ocean temperatures. The National Assessment of Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (NAST 2001) was based on a series of regional and sector assessments. This paper is a summary of the coastal and marine resources sector review of potential impacts on shorelines, estuaries, coastal wetlands, coral reefs, and ocean margin ecosystems. The assessment considered the impacts of several key drivers of climate change: sea level change; alterations in precipitation patterns and subsequent delivery of freshwater, nutrients, and sediment; increased ocean temperature; alterations in circulation patterns; changes in frequency and intensity of coastal storms; and increased levels of atmospheric CO2 . Increasing rates of sea-level rise and intensity and frequency of coastal storms and hurricanes over the next decades will increase threats to shorelines, wetlands, and coastal development. Estuarine productivity will change in response to alteration in the timing and amount of freshwater, nutrients, and sediment delivery. Higher water temperatures and changes in freshwater delivery will alter estuarine stratification, residence time, and eutrophication. Increased ocean temperatures are expected to increase coral bleaching and higher CO2 levels may reduce coral calcification, making it more difficult for corals to recover from other disturbances, and inhibiting poleward shifts. Ocean warming is expected to cause poleward shifts in the ranges of many other organisms, including commercial species, and these shifts may have secondary effects on their predators and prey. Although these potential impacts of climate change and variability will vary from system to system, it is important to recognize that they will be superimposed upon, and in many cases intensify, other ecosystem stresses (pollution, harvesting, habitat destruction, invasive species, land and resource use, extreme natural events), which may lead to more significant consequences.
ABSTRACT: We made projections of relative sea-level rise, horizontal inundation, and the associated impacts on people and infrastructure in the coastal portion of the Mid- and Upper-Atlantic Region (MUAR) of the United States. The output of five global climate models (GCMs) run under two greenhouse gas scenarios was used in combination with tide gauge observations to project sea-level increases ranging from 200 to 900 mm by 2100, depending on location, GCM and scenario. The range mainly reflects equal contributions of spatial variability (due to subsidence) and GCM uncertainty, with a smaller fraction of the range due to scenario uncertainty. We evaluated 30-m Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) using 10-m DEMs and LIDAR data at five locations in the MUAR. We found average RMS differences of 0.3 m with the 10-m DEMs and 1.2 m with the LIDAR data, much lower than the reported mean RMS errors of 7 m for the 30-m DEMs. Using the 30-m DEMs, the GCM- and scenario-means of projected sea-level rise, and local subsidence estimates, we estimated a total inundation of 2,600 km2 for the MUAR by 2100. Inundation area increases to 3,800 km2 at high tide if we incorporate local tidal ranges in the analysis. About 510,000 people and 1,000 km of road lie within this area. Inundation area per length of coastline generally increases to south, where relative sea-level rise is greater and relief is smaller. More economically developed states, such as New York and New Jersey, have the largest number of people and infrastructure exposed to risk of inundation due to sea-level rise.
W. K. Michener, E. R. Blood, K. L. Bildstein, M. M. Brinson, L. R. Gardner (1997). Climate change, hurricanes and tropical storms, and rising sea level in coastal wetlands. Ecologcial Applications 7 (3): 770-801
ABSTRACT: Global climate change is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns, oceanic and atmospheric circulation, rate of rising sea level, and the frequency, intensity, timing, and distribution of hurricanes and tropical storms. The magnitude of these projected physical changes and their subsequent impacts on coastal wetlands will vary regionally. Coastal wetlands in the southeastern United States have naturally evolved under a regime of rising sea level and specific patterns of hurricane frequency, intensity, and timing. A review of known ecological effects of tropical storms and hurricanes indicates that storm timing, frequency, and intensity can alter coastal wetland hydrology, geomorphology, biotic structure, energetics, and nutrient cycling. Research conducted to examine the impacts of Hurricane Hugo on colonial waterbirds highlights the importance of long-term studies for identifying complex interactions that may otherwise be dismissed as stochastic processes.
Rising sea level and even modest changes in the frequency, intensity, timing, and distribution of tropical storms and hurricanes are expected to have substantial impacts on coastal wetland patterns and processes. Persistence of coastal wetlands will be determined by the interactions of climate and anthropogenic effects, especially how humans respond to rising sea level and how further human encroachment on coastal wetlands affects resource exploitation, pollution, and water use. Long-term changes in the frequency, intensity, timing, and distribution of hurricanes and tropical storms will likely affect biotic functions (e.g., community structure, natural selection, extinction rates, and biodiversity) as well as underlying processes such as nutrient cycling and primary and secondary productivity.
Reliable predictions of global-change impacts on coastal wetlands will require better understanding of the linkages among terrestrial, aquatic, wetland, atmospheric, oceanic, and human components. Developing this comprehensive understanding of the ecological ramifications of global change will necessitate close coordination among scientists from multiple disciplines and a balanced mixture of appropriate scientific approaches. For example, insights may be gained through the careful design and implementation of broad-scale comparative studies that incorporate salient patterns and processes, including treatment of anthropogenic influences. Well-designed, broad-scale comparative studies could serve as the scientific framework for developing relevant and focused long-term ecological research, monitoring programs, experiments, and modeling studies. Two conceptual models of broad-scale comparative research for assessing ecological responses to climate change are presented: utilizing space-for-time substitution coupled with long-term studies to assess impacts of rising sea level and disturbance on coastal wetlands, and utilizing the moisture-continuum model for assessing the effects of global change and associated shifts in moisture regimes on wetland ecosystems. Increased understanding of climate change will require concerted scientific efforts aimed at facilitating interdisciplinary research, enhancing data and information management, and developing new funding strategies.
ABSTRACT: This paper examines future economic damages from tropical cyclones under a range of assumptions about societal change, climate change and the relationship of climate change to damage in 2050. It finds in all cases that efforts to reduce vulnerability to losses, often called climate adaptation, have far greater potential effectiveness to reduce damage related to tropical cyclones than efforts to modulate the behaviour of storms through greenhouse gas emissions reduction policies, typically called climate mitigation and achieved through energy policies. The paper urges caution in using economic losses of tropical cyclones as justification for action on energy policies when far more potentially effective options are available.
ABSTRACT: In 1990 and 1992 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its first assessment of climate change and its supplement, did not consider whether extreme weather events had increased in frequency and/or intensity globally, because data were too sparse to make this a worthwhile exercise. In 1995 the IPCC, in its second assessment, did examine this question, but concluded that data and analyses of changes in extreme events were ‘not comprehensive’and thus the question could not be answered with any confidence. Since then, concerted multinational efforts have been undertaken to collate, quality control, and analyse data on weather and climate extremes. A comprehensive examination of the question of whether extreme events have changed in frequency or intensity is now more feasible than it was 15 years ago. The processes that have led to this position are described, along with current understanding of possible changes in some extreme weather and climate events.
ABSTRACT: Theory1 and modelling2 predict that hurricane intensity should increase with increasing global mean temperatures, but work on the detection of trends in hurricane activity has focused mostly on their frequency3, 4 and shows no trend. Here I define an index of the potential destructiveness of hurricanes based on the total dissipation of power, integrated over the lifetime of the cyclone, and show that this index has increased markedly since the mid-1970s. This trend is due to both longer storm lifetimes and greater storm intensities. I find that the record of net hurricane power dissipation is highly correlated with tropical sea surface temperature, reflecting well-documented climate signals, including multi-decadal oscillations in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, and global warming. My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and—taking into account an increasing coastal population—a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century.
N. S. Diffenbaugh, J. S. Pal, R. J. Trapp, F. Giorgi (2005). Fine-scale processes regulate the response of extreme events to global climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 (44): 15774-15778
ABSTRACT: We find that extreme temperature and precipitation events are likely to respond substantially to anthropogenically enhanced greenhouse forcing and that fine-scale climate system modifiers are likely to play a critical role in the net response. At present, such events impact a wide variety of natural and human systems, and future changes in their frequency and/or magnitude could have dramatic ecological, economic, and sociological consequences. Our results indicate that fine-scale snow albedo effects influence the response of both hot and cold events and that peak increases in extreme hot events are amplified by surface moisture feedbacks. Likewise, we find that extreme precipitation is enhanced on the lee side of rain shadows and over coastal areas dominated by convective precipitation. We project substantial, spatially heterogeneous increases in both hot and wet events over the contiguous United States by the end of the next century, suggesting that consideration of fine-scale processes is critical for accurate assessment of local- and regional-scale vulnerability to climate change.
R. J. Trapp, N. S. Diffenbaugh, H. E. Brooks, M. E. Baldwin, E. D. Robinson, J.S. Pal (2007). Changes in severe thunderstorm environment frequency during the 21st century caused by anthropogenically enhanced global radiative forcing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (50): 19719-19723
ABSTRACT: Severe thunderstorms comprise an extreme class of deep convective clouds and produce high-impact weather such as destructive surface winds, hail, and tornadoes. This study addresses the question of how severe thunderstorm frequency in the United States might change because of enhanced global radiative forcing associated with elevated greenhouse gas concentrations. We use global climate models and a high-resolution regional climate model to examine the larger-scale (or “environmental”) meteorological conditions that foster severe thunderstorm formation. Across this model suite, we find a net increase during the late 21st century in the number of days in which these severe thunderstorm environmental conditions (NDSEV) occur. Attributed primarily to increases in atmospheric water vapor within the planetary boundary layer, the largest increases in NDSEV are shown during the summer season, in proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coastal regions. For example, this analysis suggests a future increase in NDSEV of 100% or more in locations such as Atlanta, GA, and New York, NY. Any direct application of these results to the frequency of actual storms also must consider the storm initiation.
ABSTRACT: It is now widely recognised that the most significant impacts of global warming are likely to be experienced through changes in the frequency of extreme events, including flooding. This paper reviews physical and empirical arguments which suggest that global warming may result in a more intense hydrological cycle, with an associated increase in the frequency and/or magnitude of heavy precipitation. Results derived from enhanced-greenhouse experiments using global climate models (GCMs) are shown to be consistent with these physical and empirical arguments. Detailed analysis of output from three GCMs indicates the possibility of substantial increases in the frequency and magnitude of extreme daily precipitation, with amplification of the effect as the return period increases. Moreover, return period analyses for locations in Australia, Europe, India, China and the USA indicate that the results are global in scope. Subsequent discussion of the limitations of GCMs for this sort of analysis highlights the need for caution when interpreting the precipitation results presented here. However, the consistency between physically-based expectations, empirical observations, and GCM results is considered sufficient for the GCM results to be taken seriously, at least in a qualitative sense, especially considering that the alternative seems to be reliance by planners on the fundamentally flawed concept of a stationary climate.
ABSTRACT: Climate simulations have suggested that a greenhouse-gas induced global warming would also lead to a moistening of the atmosphere and an intensification of the mean hydrological cycle. Here we study possible attendant effects upon the frequency of heavy precipitation events. For this purpose simulations with a regional climate model are conducted, driven by observed and modified lateral boundary conditions and sea-surface temperature distributions. The modifications correspond to a uniform 2K temperature increase and an attendant 15% increase of the specific humidity (unchanged relative humidity). This strategy allows to isolate the effects of an increased atmospheric moisture content from changes in the atmospheric circulation. The numerical experiments, carried out over Europe and for the fall season, indicate a substantial shift towards more frequent events of strong precipitation. The magnitude of the response increases with the intensity of the event and reaches several 10s of percent for events exceeding 30 mm per day. These results appear to apply to all precipitation events dominated by sea-to-land moisture transport.
Myoung, B., Y. Deng (2009). Interannual variability of the cyclonic activity along the U.S. Pacific coast: influences on the characteristics of winter precipitation in the western United States. Journal of Climate 22 (21): 5732-5747
ABSTRACT: This study examines the observed interannual variability of the cyclonic activity along the U.S. Pacific coast and quantifies its impact on the characteristics of both the winter total and extreme precipitation in the western United States. A cyclonic activity function (CAF) was derived from a dataset of objectively identified cyclone tracks in 27 winters (1979/80–2005/06). The leading empirical orthogonal function (EOF1) of the CAF was found to be responsible for the EOF1 of the winter precipitation in the western United States, which is a monopole mode centered over the Pacific Northwest and northern California. On the other hand, the EOF2 of the CAF contributes to the EOF2 of the winter precipitation, which indicates that above-normal precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and its immediate inland regions tends to be accompanied by below-normal precipitation in California and the southwestern United States and vice versa. The first two EOFs of CAF (precipitation) account for about 70% (78%) of the total interannual variance of CAF (precipitation). The second EOF modes of both the CAF and precipitation are significantly linked to the ENSO signal on interannual time scales. A composite analysis further reveals that the leading CAF modes increase (decrease) the winter total precipitation by increasing (decreasing) both the number of rainy days per winter and the extremeness of precipitation. The latter was quantified in terms of the 95th percentile of the daily rain rate and the probability of precipitation being heavy given a rainy day. The implications of the leading CAF modes for the water resources and the occurrence of extreme hydrologic events in the western United States, as well as their dynamical linkages to the Pacific storm track and various atmospheric low-frequency modes (i.e., teleconnection patterns), are also discussed.
ABSTRACT: One of the major concerns with a potential change in climate is that an increase in extreme events will occur. Results of observational studies suggest that in many areas that have been analyzed, changes in total precipitation are amplified at the tails, and changes in some temperature extremes have been observed. Model output has been analyzed that shows changes in extreme events for future climates, such as increases in extreme high temperatures, decreases in extreme low temperatures, and increases in intense precipitation events. In addition, the societal infrastructure is becoming more sensitive to weather and climate extremes, which would be exacerbated by climate change. In wild plants and animals, climate-induced extinctions, distributional and phenological changes, and species' range shifts are being documented at an increasing rate. Several apparently gradual biological changes are linked to responses to extreme weather and climate events.