Climate Extremes

Extreme weather events can occur at any time, but scientists predict that the frequency of these events will increase in the future as our planet warms. Global warming of the atmosphere and oceans is not only causing land and sea ice to melt and sea level rise, but also an increase in the probability of extreme climate events. You learned about the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) or scenarios, which depend on humans’ reliance on fossil fuels, population, CO2 and methane emissions, and use of croplands. The extent of these extreme climate events will be affected by the RCP path that we select––the lowest, 2.6 or 8.5, the highest, W/m2.

In this section, you will learn about a few climate extremes, many of which are illustrated in the figure below.

Trends in the frequency (or intensity) of various climate extremes (arrow direction denotes the sign of the change) since the middle of the 20th century (except for North Atlantic storms where the period covered is from the 1970s). Image Credit: IPCC