Science Begins to Prepare for Climate Change's Freak Weather

Climate change will bring more droughts, heat waves, and floods. But we're starting to prepare for them.

Last month, a climatologist and a geophysicist published a paper that linked a specific weather event—last summer's Russian heat wave—to climate change. Climate scientists have predicted for years that climate change will stir up more extreme weather events, but you can't chalk every freak snowstorm up to climate change, either. What Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou showed was that there is an 80 percent chance that climate change did cause the heat wave.

Next month, the International Panel on Climate Change will meet in Uganda, then release its latest massive, authoritative report on the findings of current climate science. The Associated Press and Agence-France Press both obtained a draft summary of the report and found that it focuses less on steadily rising global temperatures than on the certainty that extreme events like the Russian heat will occur. The draft report says there is a two-thirds chance that climate change has already made weather events more extreme than they’d be otherwise and concludes that heat waves, heavy rain, and droughts will likely intensify in the future.

In the climate activism community (and even in the Obama administration), much of the focus has shifted from preventing changes like these to responding to them. The word that’s most often used is “adaptation.” And although it’s terrible to consider that events like the Texas drought or the flooding in Thailand will become old hand, techniques and technologies to deal with these extremes are emerging already.

White roofs, although not perfect, do help mitigate heat in cities and could help keep down the number of heat-related deaths. In areas where flooding is more common, building water management technology into urban landscapes can also lessen the impacts. A study in Mumbai, for instance, found that a good drainage system could reduce losses in an extreme flood by as much as 70 percent. Desalinization technology can produce more water in a drought; water-efficient taps, showers, toilets and irrigation systems make more water available for people, animals, and plants to drink. Crops genetically altered to resist heat and drought conditions could thrive.

The same technologies that can help stop climate change—renewable sources of energy like solar panels—are also improving responders’ ability to help people in the worst situations. As smaller sites, like homes and businesses, take over more responsibility for power generation from centralized utilities, there’s a greater chance that extreme events like floods won’t knock out communities’ electricity entirely. Solar generators don’t require trucked-in gas to keep the lights on. This solar-powered blimp can deliver supplies to areas where gas stations and roads have been knocked out. Future FEMA trailers could provide their own power and water.

But technology alone can’t address the problems we’ve created for ourselves. A European Union report on drought response, for instance, lists “developing water-efficient technologies and practices" as just one of seven areas needed for adaptation. And a United Nations project in Bangladesh that’s field-testing agricultural adaptation options is working not just on introducing drought-resistant crops, but also on teaching farmers techniques like composting, transplanting seedlings at deeper depths, and weed control to give crops a better chance of thriving. They’re also working with communities to create ponds, canals, and wells to store water.

Using these tools to help communities will take a lot of work: even if they’re available, people have to know about them and know to use them. But the people developing them know that these extreme events are going to happen. And it’s better to be prepared than not.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user bark


October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less

Since normalizing relations with Communist China back in 1979, the U.S. government and its companies that do business with the country have, for the most part, turned a blind-eye to its numerous human rights abuses.

In China's Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, it's believed that over a million members of its Uighur population are being arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps. Female Uighurs in detention are being given forced abortions and subjected to sexual mistreatment.

Keep Reading Show less

The vaping epidemic is like a PSA come to life. A recent outbreak of vaping-related deaths and illnesses has affected people from across 46 states. More than 800 people fell ill, and at least 17 people died from vaping. In Illinois and Wisconsin, 87% of the people who got sick said they used THC, and 71% of people also said they used products that contained nicotine. Symptoms of the illness included coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, and fatigue. We finally might now why.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic believe toxic chemical fumes, not the actual chemicals in the vape liquid, might be the culprit. "It seems to be some kind of direct chemical injury, similar to what one might see with exposures to toxic chemical fumes, poisonous gases and toxic agents," Dr. Brandon Larsen, a surgical pathologist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in release.

Keep Reading Show less