CLIMATE CHALLENGESHow Do We Learn to Live with Extreme Events?

Published 20 April 2022

From weather dictionaries to AI physics, new approaches try to anticipate the next catastrophic flood, tornado, or hurricane.

By some measures, climate change is in the past.

“Multiple lines of evidence strongly support the finding that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have become the dominant driver of global climate warming observed since the mid-twentieth century,” reports the revised Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate adopted by the Council of the American Physical Society this November—representing the collective voice of more than 50,000 members.

Important efforts to stall the consequences of future climate change continue. But some researchers are asking a different question: How can society become more resilient in an already-warmed world?

At the 2022 APS March Meeting, scientists will share new findings on learning to live with climate change—and the extreme events that follow in its wake. During a press conference at 2:00 p.m. CDT on Monday, March 14, 2022, the researchers will discuss fighting climate confusion and disinformation, building a weather dictionary, and predicting climate with deep learning physics. The conference will be held onsite and streamed via Zoom.

Throughout the Trump administration, officials like EPA chief Scott Pruit claimed there was too much uncertainty to definitively say humans contribute to climate change. Further, that administration promulgated an interpretation of observations of warming and extreme weather as the result of normal but possible extreme fluctuations of a statistically unchanging climate.

“One does not need anything but elementary statistics to show that the Trump administration’s stance on climate is not consistent with observational facts: using observations it is possible to demonstrate that climate is not statistically unchanging,” said mathematician Juan M. Restrepo, a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Restrepo and Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, further, applied a simple probability theorem to temperature data from the 19th century onward. Then they estimated uncertainties related to human-driven and natural temperature fluctuations.

“Natural variability alone cannot account for the present changes in climate data. In spite of uncertainties, the Earth is still predicted to warm in a manner consistent with IPCC summary accounts,” said Restrepo of their preliminary findings.

“Given the evidence that key climate change attributes, such as ice sheet collapse and sea level rise, are occurring ahead of schedule, uncertainty has in many respects broken against us, rather than in our favor,” added Mann. “Scientific uncertainty is not a reason for inaction. If anything, it is a reason for more concerted efforts to limit carbon emissions.”

One of the most crucial areas of climate action lies in preparing for extreme events.