Decadal differences in predicitions based on evidence.

2008 and 1998

Scientific Assessment Captures Effects of a Changing Climate on Extreme Weather Events in North America

June 19, 2008

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research today released a scientific assessment that provides the first comprehensive analysis of observed and projected changes in weather and climate extremes in North America and U.S. territories. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change previously evaluated extreme weather and climate events on a global basis in this same context. However, there has not been a specific assessment across North America prior to this report.

Among the major findings reported in this assessment are that droughts, heavy downpours, excessive heat, and intense hurricanes are likely to become more commonplace as humans continue to increase the atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The report is based on scientific evidence that a warming world will be accompanied by changes in the intensity, duration, frequency, and geographic extent of weather and climate extremes.

"This report addresses one of the most frequently asked questions about global warming: what will happen to weather and climate extremes? This synthesis and assessment product examines this question across North America and concludes that we are now witnessing and will increasingly experience more extreme weather and climate events," said report co-chair Tom Karl, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.


Ten years ago:

Ecological and Socioeconomic Impacts of 1998 Coral Mortality in the Indian Ocean: An ENSO Impact and a Warning of Future Change?
Wilkinson, C | Linden, O | Cesar, H | Hodgson, G | Rubens, J | Strong, AE
Ambio [Ambio]. Vol. 28, no. 2, p. 188. Mar 1999.

The year 1998, was the warmest year since the start of temperature recordings some 150 years ago. Similarly, the 1990s have been the warmest decade recorded. In addition, 1998 saw the strongest El Nino ever recorded. As a consequence of this, very high water temperatures were observed in many parts of the oceans, particularly in the tropical Indian Ocean, often with temperatures of 3 degree to 5 degree C above normal. Many corals in this region bleached and subsequently died, probably due to the high water temperatures in combination with meteorological and climatic factors. Massive mortality occurred on the reefs of Sri Lanka, Maldives, India, Kenya, Tanzania, and Seychelles with mortalities of up to 90% in many shallow areas. Reefs in other parts of the Indian Ocean, or in waters below 20 m, coral mortality was typically 50%. Hence, coral death during 1998 was unprecedented in severity. The secondary socioeconomic effects of coral bleaching for coastal communities of the Indian Ocean are likely to be long lasting and severe. In addition to potential decreases in fish stocks and negative effects on tourism, erosion may become an acute problem, particularly in the Maldives and Seychelles. If the observed global trends in temperature rises continue, there will be an increased probability of a recurrence of the phenomenon observed in 1998 on the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, as well as in other parts of the tropical oceans in coming years. Coral reefs of the Indian Ocean may prove to be an important signal of the potential effects of global climate change, and we should heed that warning.