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Human-caused global warming has had an increasingly significant effect on the earth since the industrial era began.

Since the beginning of the industrial era, has there been a significant increase in any of the following categories per year?

  1. Hurricanes
  2. Tornadoes
  3. Floods
  4. Forest fires
  5. Extreme blizzards.

Although unrelated to global warming, I am also interested in statistics on earthquakes in the same time period as a 'base case' to account for higher reporting rates.

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  • $\begingroup$ Climate change is the preferred term, now days ;) Worried that you are asking for links between climate to earthquakes. What would be your implied mechanism for such a link? $\endgroup$ – david valentine Apr 30 '14 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @davidvalentine Thanks! I'll edit the "global warming" unless someone else does. I don't think earthquakes are connected to climate change. I want to make sure that increases in other natural disaster like floods can't be explained by better reporting; comparing the trends for earthquakes to these other disasters would help factor out the reporting element. $\endgroup$ – Brian Rushton Apr 30 '14 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ I may eventually work together some various direct sources from front-line scientists that represent some of the best thoughts on the issue, but if I never do, here is a great answer by Drs. Paul Markowski and Yvette Richardson at Penn State on tornadoes: newsweek.com/… $\endgroup$ – JeopardyTempest Oct 1 '18 at 8:20
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We have no evidence to suggest that the rate or magnitude of earthquakes has, in general, increased: while earthquakes are having a greater effect on humans, this is entirely - as best we can tell - due to increased population density, and the propensity of people to build cities immediately above major fault planes (because they channel water to the surface along impermeable fault debris). Populations settling above the surface expressions of major faults isn't much of an issue when you're living in tents in a sparse community, but once you get high-density populations living in skyscrapers with poorly-enforced building regulations death and injury rates rise very rapidly. For more detail and onward references see the USGS FAQ on this topic.

For statistics on extreme weather phenomena/natural disasters, particularly relating to precipitation and flooding, the IPCC is an excellent resource. There is of course some degree of difficulty with reporting bias (as with earthquakes), but the IPCC are extremely rigorous in calculating - and providing - bounds on probabilities and certainties. In particular, see Working Group 2: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability; their summary for policy-makers has to say:

Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability (very high confidence).

For more details, see the final draft of WG2's contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Particularly worthy of highlight are the FAQ and chapter 18.4.3, which has to say:

The last several decades have seen changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events including extreme temperature, droughts, heavy rainfall, and tropical and extratropical cyclones with low to very high confidence, depending on the type of extreme event (IPCC, 2012, WGI AR5 Chapter 2). However, the impacts of extreme weather events also depend on the vulnerability and exposure of systems. It is possible that climate change can affect vulnerability and exposure, but typically both are primarily influenced by non-climate confounders, most notably economic development.

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Hurricanes are tropical cyclones (TC) and these storms form in the ocean over warm waters when the sea surface temperature (SST) is above 27C or 28C. The higher the SST the greater the probability that a TC will form and the greater the probability that once formed the TC will intensify. These relationships provide the theoretical basis for the idea that rising temperatures will increase the frequency and intensity of TC events within what is known as the intertropical convergence zone. In fact, there is some empirical evidence that since the industrial revolution, there has been a long term positive trend in these events worldwide. James Elsner's study of Atlantic hurricanes and Prakash Singh's study of TC in the Indian Ocean are two examples. I did a similar study but looked only at what is known as the "pause" period in climate change which runs from 1998 to 2015 as of this writing and the data show that in the pause period the long term upward trend in TC frequency and intensity may also have paused. My paper along with the data and complete citations to the works mentioned may be downloaded from SSRN. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2586947

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Earth Science S.E.! Excellent answer! If you need additional assistance, please visit The Help Center. $\endgroup$ – L.B. Apr 2 '15 at 2:10

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