Computer Models Agree: More Temperature Extremes, Dramatic Precipitation in Our Future

The summer heat waves, prolonged droughts and heavy rainfall events that have occurred across much of the U.S. and Europe over the past few years are a preview of what we can expect in the future thanks to climate change, according to one Texas Tech University researcher.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: Oct. 19, 2006
CONTACT: John Davis, john.w.davis@ttu.edu
(806) 742-2136

LUBBOCK – The summer heat waves, prolonged droughts and heavy rainfall events that have occurred across much of the U.S. and Europe over the past few years are a preview of what we can expect in the future thanks to climate change, according to one Texas Tech University researcher.

Katharine Hayhoe, a research associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at Texas Tech, says the amount of change likely to occur will depend on the amount of emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities.

The study documenting the forecast for the planet’s future, a product of collaborations with three other researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, will appear in the December issue of the journal Climatic Change.

The researchers studied only extreme temperature and precipitation conditions for the future – meaning the very cold and hot days, the dry periods and the heavy downpours – and found that these weather events in the future are likely to become even more extreme, thanks to carbon dioxide emissions.

“As temperatures warm, we’re likely to have more frequent heat waves, which can affect our health and energy use,” Hayhoe said. “We also found that warming temperatures will mean more extreme precipitation events and more frequent dry periods across much of the Northern Hemisphere.”

Weather extremes are often economically damaging, spelling financial losses in agriculture and infrastructure as well as affecting energy demand and human health risks.

“It’s the extremes, not the averages, that cause the most damage to society and to many ecosystems,” says NCAR scientist Claudia Tebaldi, lead author for the report. “We now have the first model-based consensus on how the risk of dangerous heat waves, intense rains, and other kinds of extreme weather will change in the next century.”

Hayhoe said this is one of the first studies to draw on the extensive and sophisticated climate modeling that will form the basis of the upcoming Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC is a commission established by the United Nations that assesses the latest scientific, technical and socioeconomic research to understand the risks of human-induced climate change.

For a PDF copy of Going to the Extremes: An intercomparison of model-simulated historical and future changes in extreme events, please contact John Davis at (806) 742-2136 or john.w.davis@ttu.edu.

-30-

CONTACT: Katharine Hayhoe, research associate professor, Department of Geosciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-0015, or katharine.hayhoe@ttu.edu.