Increased flood risk linked to global warming


2011-02-16 Nature 470, 316 (2011) | doi:10.1038/470316a
Likelihood of extreme rainfall may have been doubled by rising greenhouse-gas levels.

The effects of severe weather

The effects of severe weather — such as these floods in Albania — take a huge human and financial toll. Reuters/E. Celi

Climate change may be hitting home. Rises in global average temperature are remote from most people’s experience, but two studies in this week’s Nature conclude that climate warming is already causing extreme weather events that affect the lives of millions. The research directly links rising greenhouse-gas levels with the growing intensity of rain and snow in the Northern Hemisphere, and the increased risk of flooding in the United Kingdom. …

There is no doubt that humans are altering the climate, but the implications for regional weather are less clear. No computer simulation can conclusively attribute a given snowstorm or flood to global warming. But with a combination of climate models, weather observations and a good dose of probability theory, scientists may be able to determine how climate warming changes the odds. An earlier study, for example, found that global warming has at least doubled the likelihood of extreme events such as the 2003 European heatwave.

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