U.S. Farmers Struggle Through Drought To Bring Food To The Table But Face More Challenges Ahead

The drought has dragged on for a long time. Last year, orchard farmers in California’s Central Valley destroyed trees that were dying due to lack of water. This year, many more farmers did the same.

Lack of summer rain forced Nebraska farmer Kevin Fulton to go underground to find water for his crops. Not a perfect solution: the Ogallala Aquifer, where Fulton tapped in, has pumping restrictions in some areas, just not where Fulton is located. That’s because the aquifer is running dry.

As drought extends its deadly fingers from California to the eastern side of the Mississippi River — a vast stretch of the continent that produces most of America’s food, including three-quarters of its beef cattle and 70% of its vegetables, fruits and nuts — farmers and ranchers are facing a double whammy. They have to go farther to find water and higher fuel costs are forcing them to pay more to pump whatever isn’t coming from the sky. That predicament is still better than what’s happened to the land that’s not irrigated, Fulton says.

“The pastures are burning up,” Fulton, a 28-year veteran of farming the land he inherited, told Forbes. “Some aren’t going to produce anything and the yields have been drastically reduced. This wears on you mentally. You’re working hard to keep up with the irrigation. It’s depressing. These kinds of things sometimes push farmers over the edge.”

Only heroic efforts by farmers and ranchers have kept supermarket shelves supplied in the parched U.S. Even so, drought is expensive for consumers and limits their choices. Inflation caused by higher production costs will persist as long as hot, dry weather dominates vast swathes of the country. Many of the folks who make their living from agriculture realize that conditions in summer, the most dangerous season, will likely persist into the future.

“The hazards in recent years have been relentless,” Kristy Dahl, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ principal climate expert, told Forbes. “We need to be better prepared for ‘danger season,’ otherwise we’ll increasingly be caught off-guard every year. Climate change is getting worse.”

Despite the drought — in some places, the driest conditions going back more than 1,000 years — American producers have managed to bring in a projected harvest that’s nowhere near as bad as it could be. Soybean production will actually increase 2% from 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and wheat is up 8% over last year as global demand soared in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, a major wheat-producing country.

The concern is the corn harvest, which the USDA predicts will be down 5% from 2021, with less of the supply classified as good or excellent compared with last year. Still, the USDA forecasts record-high corn yields in California, Iowa, Washington and Wisconsin.

American food producers polled by the American Farm Bureau Federation last year complained of dangerously dry conditions. The farmers and ranchers surveyed in August 2022 say circumstances are pretty much the same or worse.

Nearly three-quarters of farmers saw a reduction in harvest yields due to drought, while 37% said they were tilling over fields that won’t produce anything because of a lack of water, up from 24% last year. One-third of orchard farmers nationwide, and 50% in California, said they were ripping up trees, an increase from 17% in 2021. In one case, the Farm Bureau said, a California producer dropped all the fruit on five acres of young Cabernet grapes to help the vines survive without water. That ensured that the farmer would have no revenue from those vines.

Similar measures plague the livestock industry, according to the Farm Bureau. Two-thirds of ranchers reported selling off animals or birds, with average herd sizes expected to be down 36%. The biggest herd declines are in Texas (down 50%), New Mexico (43%) and Oregon (41%), a good example of the wide geographic distribution of the distress.

Fulton says 2022 was the worst year of drought in the past decade, and the second-worst in his three decades of farming, after 2012. Some of Fulton’s neighbors are now reducing the sizes of their herds and taking the livestock to the auction barn. Fulton says he’s considering doing the same. Drought kills off the grass that cattle need to graze on, so farmers have to buy expensive hay to feed them instead.

“You can’t feed yourself out of a drought. It doesn’t work from a profit standpoint,” Fulton says. “We’re going to run out of grass.” In mid-August, rains finally hit farms in dried-out Southwestern states, including Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Then the rains arrived on the Great Plains. Farmers like Fulton welcomed the brief break. But it was too little, too late.

On Fulton’s farm, the effects of a changing climate are pervasive. There are more grasshoppers, which love dry weather and eat the crops. Fulton’s bees have also been less active. Honey production is half of what it normally is, he said. There’s also the looming threat of heat-driven poison: If some plants don’t get enough water, they can produce high levels of nitrates, which makes them toxic for the livestock that eat them.

According to the USDA’s August production report, the rains in mid-August helped to replenish topsoil moisture and “revived drought-ravaged rangeland and pastures. However, hot, dry weather persisted.” From the Pacific Coast to the northern Plains, temperatures averaged at least 5°F above normal. Readings even averaged 10°F above normal in some locations across the interior Northwest and Northern California.

Drought-resistant seeds and drip-irrigation to conserve water are promising solutions, if they can be put to use at scale. A lot of money has gone towards funding startups and research, but there haven’t been many mainstream successes.

This year’s industrially grown commodity crops so far still seem strong overall. But the cracks driven by climate change are starting to show. Darvin Bentlage, a 66-year-old, fourth-generation cattle and grain farmer located north of Joplin, Missouri, says the extreme weather that he and his neighbors face has taken them on a roller-coaster ride. Earlier this year, it rained so much that he had to delay planting. Then the drought came.

“That was a rough start,” Bentlage told Forbes. “In my 50 years of farming it never went from being so wet to so dry – it’s the fastest I’ve seen.” He added: “Pray for rain.” Despite decreasing access to water and extreme weather projections on the horizon, Fulton says he’s optimistic for the future.

“Like most farmers, when we have a bad year, we say it will be better next year. We live to farm another year,” he says. “Sometimes it seems like it can’t get any worse.”

Chloe Sorvino leads coverage of food and agriculture at Forbes. Her book Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat will be published in

Source: U.S. Farmers Struggle Through Drought To Bring Food To The Table But Face More Challenges Ahead

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The World Meteorological Organization Has No Immediate Plans To Name Heatwaves

As extreme heat stifles communities around the world this week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that it has “no immediate plans” to give heatwaves names. The July 19th announcement seems to pump the brakes on growing calls to come up with a strategy for ranking and naming heatwaves around the world.

In the US, heat kills more people than any other weather-related disaster. Globally, it kills 5 million people a year. But heat spells haven’t always spurred the same careful preparations people might take to, say, shelter from a major storm. The goal of naming heatwaves would be to make it easier to communicate the risks they pose to the public so that people can take measures to stay safe. In the US, heat kills more people than any other weather-related disaster

For decades, names have played a big role in early warnings for dangerous storms. Warning people about hurricane “Sandy” or “Harvey” just became a lot easier than identifying a storm by latitude and longitude. The US’s National Hurricane Center started giving Atlantic storms monikers from an official list in 1953. Currently, the WMO maintains rotating lists of names for the Atlantic and other regions.

Some advocates want to apply a similar naming mechanism to heatwaves. Seville, Spain, is set to become the first city in the world to test out the idea later this year. Officials in Athens, Greece, and California have contemplated doing the same. But the WMO apparently has some reservations, saying that it’s “currently considering the advantages and disadvantages of naming heatwaves.”“What has been established for tropical cyclone events may not necessarily translate easily across to heatwaves,” the WMO said in its news release this week. “Caution should be exercised when comparing or applying lessons or protocols from one hazard type to another, due to the important differences in the physical nature and impacts of storms and heatwaves.”“False alarms” are one concern for the WMO. Heatwaves can be forecast up to 10 days out in many parts of the world. But if the forecast for an extreme heatwave is inaccurate — maybe it’s not as hot as expected or it hits a different region than anticipated — then people might lose faith in the warnings and stop heeding them.

“False alarms”

The other caveat with heat, the WMO says, is that heat-related deaths can happen even when it’s not extraordinarily hot outside. If someone is continuously exposed to more sweltering conditions, say, in the workplace or in a home without air conditioning, they can become ill even if there isn’t an officially declared heatwave.

To prevent confusion ahead of a potential disaster, the WMO also says that any “pilot heatwave naming” should at least be tied into a country’s official warning system in the absence of a broader international framework.

Seville is piloting a project this year that will test a new alert system to warn residents ahead of a heatwave. Extreme heat events will be categorized based on their severity, and those forecast to have the greatest impact on the city will get a name. The first five have already been chosen: Zoe, Yago, Xenia, Wenceslao, and Vega.

“We are the first city in the world to take a step that will help us plan and take measures when this type of meteorological event happens—particularly because heat waves always hit the most vulnerable,” Antonio Muñoz, the mayor of Seville, said in a June 21st press release.

Parts of Europe literally buckled and burned under a brutal heatwave this week — even in places with typically milder summers. In the UK, record-breaking temperatures buckled train tracks and even an airport runway. London’s fire service responded to more blazes in a day than it had since World War II, according to Sadiq Khan, the city’s mayor. And 100 million people in the US are under heat alerts today.

Heatwaves are becoming more frequent and more intense as greenhouse gas emissions heat our planet. More than a third of heat deaths can be attributed to climate change, according to research published last year.

Source: The World Meteorological Organization has ‘no immediate plans’ to name heatwaves – The Verge

Critics by EPA

A persistent period of unusually hot days is referred to as an extreme heat event or a heat wave. Heat waves are more than just uncomfortable: they can lead to illness and death, particularly among older adults, the very young, and other vulnerable populations (see the Heat-Related Deaths and Heat-Related Illnesses indicators).

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat can lead to other impacts as well—for example, damaging crops, injuring or killing livestock, and increasing the risk of wildfires. Prolonged periods of extreme heat can lead to power outages as heavy demands for air conditioning strain the power grid.

Unusually hot days and heat wave events are a natural part of day-to-day variation in weather. As the Earth’s climate warms, however, hotter-than-usual days and nights are becoming more common (see the High and Low Temperatures indicator) and heat waves are expected to become more frequent and intense.2 Increases in these extreme heat events can lead to more heat-related illnesses and deaths, especially if people and communities do not take steps to adapt.3 Even small increases in extreme heat can result in increased deaths and illnesses.4

About the Indicator

This indicator examines trends over time in four key characteristics of heat waves in the United States:

  • Frequency: the number of heat waves that occur every year.
  • Duration: the length of each individual heat wave, in days.
  • Season length: the number of days between the first heat wave of the year and the last.
  • Intensity: how hot it is during the heat wave.

Heat waves can be defined in many different ways. For consistency across the country, Figures 1 and 2 define a heat wave as a period of two or more consecutive days when the daily minimum apparent temperature (the actual temperature adjusted for humidity) in a particular city exceeds the 85th percentile of historical July and August temperatures (1981–2010) for that city. EPA chose this definition for several reasons:

  • The most serious health impacts of a heat wave are often associated with high temperatures at night, which is usually the daily minimum.5 The human body needs to cool off at night, especially after a hot day. If the air stays too warm at night, the body faces extra strain as the heart pumps harder to try to regulate body temperature.
  • Adjusting for humidity is important because when humidity is high, water does not evaporate as easily, so it is harder for the human body to cool off by sweating. That is why health warnings about extreme heat are often based on the “heat index,” which combines temperature and humidity.
  • The 85th percentile of July and August temperatures equates to the nine hottest days during the hottest two months of the year. A temperature that is typically only recorded nine times during the hottest part of the year is rare enough that most people would consider it to be unusually hot.
  • By using the 85th percentile for each individual city, Figures 1 and 2 define “unusual” in terms of local conditions. After all, a specific temperature like 95°F might be unusually hot in one city but perfectly normal in another. Plus, people in relatively warm regions (such as the Southwest) may be better acclimated and adapted to hot weather.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calculated apparent temperature for this indicator based on temperature and humidity measurements from long-term weather stations, which are generally located at airports. Figures 1 and 2 focus on the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan areas that have recorded weather data from a consistent location without many missing days over the time period examined.

The year 1961 was chosen as the starting point because most major cities have collected consistent data since at least that time. Figure 3 provides another perspective to gauge the size and frequency of prolonged heat wave events. It shows the U.S. Annual Heat Wave Index, which tracks the occurrence of heat wave conditions across the contiguous 48 states from 1895 to 2021. This index defines a heat wave as a period lasting at least four days with an average temperature that would only be expected to persist over four days once every 10 years, based on the historical record. The index value for a given year depends on how often such severe heat waves occur and how widespread they are….

Related contents:

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02:30
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Reporter – Climate change: Europe’s first heat officer Deutsche Welle

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Week Of Heat: These Major Temperature Records Were Shattered In Scorching Heat Waves

Coringsby in eastern England rose to 104.5 degrees (40.3C) Tuesday, obliterating the previous all-time record high in the United Kingdom of 101.7 degrees (38.7C) recorded in 2019.

Scotland and Wales also set their own all-time records during the early week heat wave, with Hawarden, Wales, hitting 98.8 degrees (37.1C) Monday and Floors Castle, Scotland, reaching 95.2 degrees (35.1) Tuesday.

Dublin set an all-time record high of 91.6 degrees (33.1C) Monday, which was the hottest temperature ever in Ireland during the month of July and the hottest recorded on the island since June of 1887.

Temperatures also rocketed across much of western continental Europe—Hamburg in northern Germany set an all-time record high of 104 degrees (40.1C) Wednesday, while Abed, Denmark hit 96.6 (35.9C), the hottest ever recorded in the country during July.

A separate heat wave in east Asia sent the mercury soaring there—Zhuoxi, Taiwan, hit 106 degrees Friday, setting a new record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on the island, while Sheng Shui in Hong Kong nearly reached 101 (38.2C), setting a record for the highest July temperature in Hong Kong.

The extreme heat in Europe has largely pushed to the eastern part of the continent, with Ljubljana, Slovenia—the country’s capital—rising to 100 (38C) Saturday, setting a new monthly record for the city.

The extreme heat wave in Europe was caused by a ridge of high pressure that slowly moved up from north Africa, causing stagnant air while suppressing winds and cloud development. Especially in the U.K., the infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle such significant heat, which led to numerous fires across parts of London while airport runways melted in the stifling conditions.

Climate experts say heat waves are among the most immediate and noticeable effects of climate change, and are likely to become more intense and more frequent in the future.It’s not clear at this point how many deaths will be attributed to the heat waves, but the number could be considerable. More than 2,000 deaths have been confirmed on the Iberian Peninsula alone from heat-related issues.

The U.S. also dealt with sweltering conditions this week, with more than 100 million Americans living in areas under heat alerts, but all-time records were not broken in most cases. Salt Lake City, however, tied its all-time record high Sunday, hitting 107 degrees.

I’m a New Orleans-based news reporter for Forbes covering politics, with a focus on former President Donald Trump. Previously, I wrote for The Times-Picayune

Source: Week Of Heat: These Major Temperature Records Were Shattered In Scorching Heat Waves

More contents:

U.K. Faces Hottest Day On Record As Weather Officials Issue Warning—Here’s Why It’s A Cause For Concern 

As The U.K. Burns In Extreme Heat, Where Is The Plan?

Heat Wave Watch: Here’s Where It Will Be Dangerously Hot In The U.S. This Week

Special rail cars absorb carbon dioxide when trains break and decelerate: New study Nature World News

11:37 Fri, 22 JulClimate Crisis Airlines

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18:01 Sat, 23 JulOil Canada Energy/Utilities

09:35Extinction Global Warming & Climate Change Nature

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Startup Near Space Labs Raises $13 Million To Launch More Mapping Balloons Into The Stratosphere

Growing up in Yerevan, Armenia, Rema Matevosyan and her amateur astronomer grandparents enjoyed heading outside in the middle of the night, paper map carefully marked, to observe the stars. Now as CEO of geospatial data startup Near Space Labs, her technology takes her close.

While the billionaire space race has helped spur a wave of interest in companies looking to travel, manufacture and mine off-planet, Near Space is focused a little bit closer, in the stratosphere. There, Matevosyan’s startup collects geospatial data through small autonomous robots attached to weather balloons, a contraption it calls “the Swifty,” capturing up to 1,000 square kilometers of imagery each flight from more than 60,000 feet up.

The process is cheaper—and carries a much lower carbon footprint—than flying a special plane or launching a satellite, Matevosyan says. But its data sets could prove just as valuable to insurers, governments, disaster recovery and autonomous vehicle operators alike.

“We are a very rebellious Earth-imaging company when everyone is launching satellite constellations,” Matevosyan says. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful devices. But with the rapid adoption of our product and our rapid growth wherever we’ve deployed, it speaks to the dire need for this data that we are providing.”

Now, with more than 150 flights completed, Brooklyn- and Barcelona-based Near Space is raising a $13 million Series A funding round led by Crosslink Capital, with Toyota Ventures and existing investors Leadout Capital and Wireframe Ventures joining in. The funding brings Near Space’s total funding to $16.8 million so far, and comes as the business is looking to hire more than a dozen roles to expand its customer base across the U.S. The startup plans to launch 500 flights in 2022.

After moving to Moscow to conduct funded master’s degree research in mathematics, the trilingual Matevosyan (she’s currently trying to pick up Spanish as a fourth) met cofounders Ignasi Lluch, Near Space’s CTO, and Albert Caubet, its chief engineer, while starting to earn a Ph.D. and working as a junior research fellow studying complex aerospace systems, specifically how satellites communicate with each other.

Her research took her to launches in remote parts of central Russia in December—an activity she does not recommend—and convinced her that some applications of geospatial data would be impossible to cover effectively through satellites, even with billions of dollars pouring into space tech.

Originally founded as Swiftera in late 2016, Near Space Labs was admitted to New York-based accelerator Urban-X, a five-month program operated by MINI and Urban Us that invests $100,000 in two cohorts of ten urban tech startups each year. Matevosyan abruptly relocated to Brooklyn, initially crashing on a friend’s couch, and got a working prototype running before the program’s completion.

A few months later, in June 2018, the company raised $2 million from Leadout, the VC firm founded by former Facebook executive Alison Rosenthal, Wireframe Ventures and others; it added another $1.5 million last year, with Matevosyan appearing on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for manufacturing and industry in between.

Near Space launched its first major commercial rollout in July 2020, slowed a bit by the pandemic. While Matevosyan operates out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an emerging hub for frontier tech and hardware startups, her cofounders and much of the hardware R&D is located in Barcelona. (Despite interest from Europe and Southeast Asia, especially, Matevosyan says Near Space’s immediate focus is on the U.S. market.)

The startup operates several business models, sending up Swifty platforms on a contract basis as needed for custom projects, while also launching them regularly from its own launch sites to maintain coverage for a fresh data set of geospatial data. “The idea is that we will have a global constellation of our Swifties, and then people will be subscribing to this data set and using it,” says Matevosyan.

The device itself ships in a small box; operators on the ground switch them on, attach them to the weather balloon and Near Space manages them autonomously from there. “Everybody wants to come to a launch site, which is also great for our sales, because it’s a very exciting event,” Matevosyan admits.

At new lead investor Crosslink, partner Phil Boyer says his firm was excited to back Near Space due to its familiarity with the geospatial market—it’s also backed Arturo, Descartes Labs and Enview—and the differentiation of Near Space collecting its data cheaply from the stratosphere. The potential for recurring revenue from a large market for such data, Boyer adds, meant the firm saw Near Space’s economics only improving over time. Particular growth areas of interest include real estate, disaster recovery and providing updated map information for autonomous vehicles—which helps explain Toyota’s venture arm on the cap table.

That was more than enough for the VC firm to overcome any hesitation about betting big on balloons in an age of rockets. “When you say the word ‘balloon,’ you certainly get a couple of odd looks, like, you invested a balloon company? What does that mean?” Boyer says. “But it wasn’t a huge leap of faith for us.”

Near Space is rooting for its peers in satellites and rockets, too, says Matevosyan, arguing that more activity in the category generally is good for all players. As for taking balloons seriously? “The questions drop when I show them our data,” she says.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a senior editor at Forbes covering venture capital, cloud and enterprise software out of New York. I edit the Midas List, Midas List Europe, Cloud 100 list and 30

Source: Startup Near Space Labs Raises $13 Million To Launch More Mapping Balloons Into The Stratosphere

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A NASA Scientist Explains Why The Weather is Becoming More Extreme

Across China and Western Europe in July, the amount of rain that might typically fall over several months to a year came down within a matter of days, triggering floods that swept entire homes off their foundations. In June, the usually mild regions of Southwest Canada and the US’s Pacific Northwest saw temperatures that rivaled highs in California’s Death Valley desert. The severe heat was enough to buckle roads and melt power cables.

Yesterday, a landmark United Nations report helped put those kinds of extreme events into context. By burning fossil fuels and releasing planet-heating greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, humans are fueling more dangerous weather. Researchers have been able to connect the dots between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change for decades.

But the new report showcases a big leap forward in climate science: being able to tie the climate crisis directly to extreme weather events like the June heatwave, which would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change according to recent studies.

The Verge spoke with Alex Ruane, one of the authors of the new report and a research physical scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He walks us through the phenomena that’s supercharging extreme weather events. And he explains why scientists have gotten so much better at seeing the “human footprint” in each weather disaster.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The new United Nations report ties many changes in extreme weather to a more intense water cycle. What is the water cycle and how does it affect the weather?

The water cycle is basically the way that we track moisture moving through the climate system. So it includes everything from the oceans to the atmosphere, the clouds, ice, rivers, lakes, the groundwater, and the way that those things move and transfer moisture and water from place to place.

So when we’re talking about the intensification of the water cycle, we’re basically saying things are moving faster. Air is pulling the moisture out of the oceans and out of the land faster. It’s moving more moisture from place to place on the planet. And when it rains, it can come down hard.

The fundamental difference is that there is more energy in the system. There’s more heat. And as the temperature goes up, there is an overall increase in the amount of moisture that the air is trying to hold. So that means when a storm happens, there’s more moisture in the air to tap into for a big, heavy downpour.

It also means that when air moves over a region, it has the potential to suck more moisture out of the ground more rapidly. So the same phenomenon is leading both to more intensive rainfalls and floods and precipitation, and also to more stark drought conditions when they do occur.

How are people affected by those changes?

So, I personally live in New York City. We are affected by the water cycle, for example, when there’s a heavy downpour it can flood subway stations. It can lead to surface flooding in rivers and streets that can affect transportation.

Other parts of the world have different engagements with the water cycle. They may be concerned about the snow fall or river floods that affect broad areas. And then of course huge parts of the world are concerned about drought. When we look at something like drought, it doesn’t just affect agriculture. It also affects ecosystems and urban parks. It affects water resources and infrastructure like power plants and roads and buildings.

So in all of these climate factors, we see that more than one sector is affected by these changes. We also see that if you take any specific thing that we care about, like agricultural fields, they are affected by more than just one type of climate change.

A specific set of climate conditions can lead to two extremes at the same time. So for example, heat and drought often go together because as conditions become drier, all of that sunshine, all of that energy, all of that heat goes into warming the air. That is a reinforcing cycle that can make hot and dry conditions even more extreme.

The big picture, as we’re seeing it, is that climate change is affecting all of the regions on Earth, with multiple types of climate changes already observed. And as the climate changes further, these shifts become more pronounced and widespread.

I’ve read that “weather whiplash” is becoming more common because of climate change — what is “weather whiplash”?

This idea that you can go from extreme to extreme very rapidly is giving society this sensation of a whiplash. This is part of the idea of an intensified water cycle. The water is moving faster, so when a wet condition comes it can be extremely wet. And then behind it could be a dry condition that can quickly get extremely dry.

That type of shift from wet to dry conditions is something that we explore and understand in our climate models, but the lived experience of it can be quite jarring — and not just uncomfortable, but a direct challenge for ecosystems and other things that we care about in society. They really are connected in many cases to the same types of phenomenon, and this new report connects the dots between this phenomenon and our human footprint.

How do scientists study how climate change affects extreme weather events?

There have been big steps forward in the methodologies and the scientific rigor of detection and attribution studies, which is another way of saying: understanding the human influence on these events.

The basic idea behind the extreme event attribution is that we need to compare the likelihood that an event would have happened without human influences against the likelihood of that event happening, given that we have influenced the climate.

We are able to use observational records and our models to look at what conditions were like before there was strong human influence. We look at what we call a preindustrial condition, before the Industrial Revolution and land use changes led to greenhouse gas emissions and other climate changes.

If we can understand how likely events would have been before we had our climate influences, and then compare it against the likelihoods today with those climate change influences factored in, that allows us to identify the increased chance of those events because of our influence. It allows us to attribute a human component of those extreme events.

How have researchers gotten so much better at attributing extreme weather events to climate change?

This is a really exciting, cutting-edge field right now. Methodological advances and several groups that have really taken this on as a major focus of their efforts have, in many ways, increased our ability and the speed at which we can make these types of connections. So that’s a big advantage.

Every year, the computational power is stronger in terms of what our models can do. We also use remote sensing to have a better set of observations in parts of the world where we don’t have weather stations. And we have models that are designed to integrate multiple types of observations into the same kind of physically coherent system, so that we can understand and fill in the gaps between those observations.

The other thing, of course, is when you look at any single attribution study, you get a piece of the picture. But what the new report does is bring them all into one place and assesses them together, and draw out larger messages. When you look at them all together, it is a much stronger and more compelling case than any one single event. And this is what the scientific community is showing us, that these things are part of a larger pattern of change that we have influenced.

What should we expect in the future when it comes to extreme weather? And what might we need to do to adapt?

First of all, it’s not like drought is a new phenomenon. There are parts of the world that are dealing with these conditions every day of the year. What we’re seeing, however, is that the overall set of expected conditions is moving into uncharted territory.

I want to emphasize it’s not just the record levels that we care about. We also care about the frequency by which these extremes occur, how long they last, the seasonal timing of when things like the last frost occurs, and also the spatial extent of extreme events — so where are conditions going to happen in the future that are outside of the observed experience of the last several generations.

It is a set of challenges that we have to face in terms of how do we adapt or manage the risk of these changes. Also, how do we prepare knowing that they may come in combination or in overlapping ways, with more than one extreme event happening at the same time, or in the same season in a sequence, or potentially hitting different parts of the same market or commodities trade exchange or something like that.

We are facing a situation where we have more information about these regional risks, but also know that every increment of climate change that occurs makes these changes more prominent. That sounds scary, but it also gives us agency.

It gives us the ability to reduce these changes if we reduce emissions, and if we can eventually limit them to something like net zero — no total carbon emissions into the climate system. And in that sense, I still remain optimistic despite all this information that you’re seeing in the report about the changes that could come. The bottom line is we have the potential to reduce those changes, if we can get emissions under control.

Source: A NASA scientist explains why the weather is becoming more extreme – The Verge

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