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Extreme weather and climate change: what people are saying

by on December 31, 2011

Given the association of extreme weather and climate events with rising global temperature, the expectation of new record high temperatures in 2012 also suggests that the frequency and magnitude of extreme events could reach a high level in 2012. Extreme events include not only high temperatures, but also indirect effects of a warming atmosphere including the impact of higher temperature on extreme rainfall and droughts. The greater water vapor content of a warmer atmosphere allows larger rainfall anomalies and provides the fuel for stronger storms driven by latent heat.
— Dr James Hansen NASA

All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.
— Barack Obama, 3 April 2006

“The Murray-Darling Basin droughts 2002 to 2009… the Black Saturday Victorian bushfires… the 2011 Queensland and Victorian floods … and Cyclone Yasi … are regarded as Australia’s worst droughts, worst fires, worst floods, and worst cyclone on record. But thinking about them as one in one hundred year events is foolish and misleading.”
— Kelvin Thompson MP

If the question were posed as “would these events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?”, an appropriate answer in that case is “almost certainly not.” That answer, to the public, translates as “yes”, i.e., humans probably bear a responsibility for the extreme event.
— Dr James Hansen, NASA

It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both…. there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago.
— Dr Kevin Trenberth, NCAR

A report on inland flooding quietly released by the Queensland government in November 2010 concluded, “with our changing climate, extreme flooding events are likely to become more intense.”
— QLD government

The ocean temperatures last year were the highest on record and we know the oceans around Australia are warming quite quickly and that’s the fuel for the storms and rain events. In 2010 we had the highest humidity on record and July to October was our wettest ever… We have got extreme natural variability in La Nina which makes things confused, but we are seeing signatures of global warming in the climate system over Australia. We have the highest sea-surface temperatures on record with high humidity.
— Dr David Jones, head of climate monitoring and prediction at the Bureau of Meteorology

I think people will end up concluding that at least some of the intensity of the monsoon in Queensland can be attributed to climate change.
— Prof Matthew England, UNSW

What gives very heavy rainfall is high Indian Ocean temperatures and La Niña in the Pacific. This year we have both of those, and both are at record highs… This (pronounced long-term warming trend in the waters near Australia) isn’t just climate variability. This is man-made climate change… we can’t say this individual event [in Queensland] is due to long term climate change, but we can say the overall global sea surface temperature increases are due to anthropogenic [man-made] forcings.
— Prof – David Karoly, University of Melbourne

The record warm (sea) temperatures (SSTs) are most likely a combination of La Nina and additional warming from human activities.
— Andrew Ash, CSIRO

“The rapid onset of La Nina meant the Asian monsoon was enhanced and the over 1 degree Celsius anomalies in sea surface temperatures led to the flooding in India and China in July and Pakistan in August,” he told Reuters in an email. He said a portion, about 0.5C, of the ocean temperatures around northern Australia, which are more than 1.5C above pre-1970 levels, could be attributed to global warming.
— Dr Kevin Trenberth, NCAR

In recent decades, most of North America has been experiencing more unusually hot days and nights, fewer unusually cold days and nights, and fewer frost days. Heavy downpours have become more frequent and intense.
— 2008 US government report

The climate is changing… Extreme events are occurring with greater frequency, and in many cases with greater intensity.
— Jay Lawrimore, chief of climate analysis at the National Climatic Data Center

When it comes meteorological disasters, weather-related disasters, then there is a trend upwards connected with climate change… The trend is there is terms of floods, and cyclones, and droughts.
— John Holmes, the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs

The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world (in 2010) provide further indications of advancing climate change…
globally there has been a more than threefold increase in loss-related floods since 1980 and more than double the number of windstorm natural catastrophes, with particularly heavy losses as a result of Atlantic hurricanes…
The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.
— Munich Re report

Everyone says this week [is a] one in 100, one in 200 years [event] but they are happening pretty much more frequently now.
— Vic. Governor Prof. David de Kretser

The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.
— Craig Fugate, head of U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency

If you want a picture of what a hostile and costly environment looks like, we’ve had it in spades over the past couple of years.
— John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute think tank.

I suspect that crazy weather years like 2010 will become the norm a decade from now, as the climate continues to adjust to the steady build-up of heat-trapping gases we are pumping into the air. Forty years from now, the crazy weather of 2010 will seem pretty tame.
— Dr Jeff Masters on the equal hottest year on record, at the end of the hottest decade on record.

Initial quote collection compiled by the Climate Action Centre (AU), in the year 2010

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