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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hansi Singh

Climate Change and Extreme Weather: A Clear Connection

Explaining the link between a warming planet and severe weather events

extra moisture in warmer atmospheric cloud

It's not just you - extreme weather is increasing around the world. From intensified hurricanes to softball-sized hail, our warming climate is fueling an increase in extreme weather worldwide. In the US and Europe, we're seeing more property damage from hurricanes, thunderstorms, floods, and wildfires over recent decades - which is partly due to population increases in hazard-prone regions. In developing countries with less robust infrastructure, severe weather is leading to more deaths and societal disruption.

Extreme weather events aren't caused by climate change itself, as severe weather has always existed. However, in a warming climate, these events can intensify for several reasons. Wet weather, in particular, becomes more extreme because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. This is described by the Clausius-Clapeyron principle in thermodynamics - as temperatures rise, the atmosphere can exponentially take in more water vapor. In fact, every 1°C of warming allows the air to hold 7% more moisture.

With all that extra moisture available, individual rain or snow storms can pull in more water vapor and unleash heavier downpours over a shorter period. This isn't just a theory – observations around the world confirm that rainfall and snowfall events are becoming even heavier as the planet warms.

extreme hurricane winds during a cyclone

On a hotter Earth, a spring shower or much-needed monsoon can turn into a dangerous downpour, causing flash floods or landslides. Extreme precipitation can also damage crops, delay supply deliveries if roads flood, or knock out power grids. When storms have access to all that extra moisture in the air, they can turbo-charge into more intense events like atmospheric rivers, hurricanes, and severe thunderstorms. Hailstones can grow much larger, and become more dangerous, when more moisture is available.

landslide threatening cliffside houses

It's not just wet extremes that increase with climate change - dry extremes also get worse as the planet warms up. Arid regions, particularly in the subtropics, expand and become drier due to the same Clausius-Clapeyron relationship. This shift not only intensifies fire weather, but also increases the risk of wildfires. Droughts, a consequence of greater aridity, lead to reduced freshwater availability, impacting agriculture, hydropower, reservoirs/groundwater, and causing land to sink. Between dangerous deluges on one side and crippling droughts on the other, our warming world is facing weather extremes that are both wetter and drier.

In this era of wetter, drier, and more turbulent weather, you don't have to be caught off guard by extreme conditions. At Planette, we bridge the forecasting gap between weather and climate. Our seasonal, annual, and multi-year Precipitation Forecasts can quantify these risks over different time periods to guide your organization's operational decisions. Precipitation Forecasts not only assess the probability of extreme rainfall that could impact your facilities, but also forecast emerging or continuing drought risks.

boat on dried up lake due to climate change

Our climate is changing, and extreme weather is becoming more common as a result, but with the right planning and preparation, the impacts of these extreme weather events don't have to catch you by surprise. By staying informed on the latest climate forecasts and risk analyses, you can make proactive decisions to protect your organization, assets, and communities from the turbulent conditions our warming world will continue to deliver.



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