Monitoring of Climate Change Impacts: extreme events

In the past, the scientific community was very reluctant to attribute single extreme events to climate change. But as attribution science improves, the link between climate change and extreme events becomes better understood. Climate change can act as a booster for extreme events, potentially increasing their frequency and intensity.

Extreme events can often have catastrophic impacts. Historically, preparation for, and recovery from, weather-related disasters has been largely, though not exclusively, handled by the disaster risk reduction (DRR) community. The DRR discipline largely assesses disaster risk by relying on climate and weather risk scenarios that are based on past extreme events. However, these scenarios are becoming less reliable in a non-stationary climate. The climate change adaptation (CCA) community can offer valuable support as it incorporates climate projections and assesses how risks change over time. These changes in risk scenarios are crucial for the management of slow onset disasters.

One example would be the increasing frequency and severity of droughts with abnormally hot temperatures as well as a lack of precipitation, as experienced across Europe in summer 2018.

Connected to the issue of drought and heatwaves are wildfires, which are much more likely to happen and spread in dry and hot conditions where there is the presence of fuel, such as bushland. (see bottom of this page). These effects could be seen in summer 2018 across the Northern Hemisphere with major wildfires raging in large parts of Europe and the United States.

The risk thresholds for floods are also affected. For example, changes in precipitation patterns suggest that fewer but more intense rainfalls might become more likely. Thus, drainage systems might have to cope with larger water amounts than before.

While DRR has decades of experience working with communities on the ground, CCA offers expertise in managing climate risk increments; collaboration and knowledge exchange between the two could, thus, significantly improve resilience building.