Thursday, 9 February 2017

EPA: Climate Change Adaptation


I have been uploading pre-Trump page downloads from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website dealing with climate change, as a back-up for my own reference and potentially for others, before they are deleted or rewritten by climate change deniers. 
The EPA is under serious threat. Yesterday, for example, a report emerged confirming that the Trump Administration is looking to close the Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance (OECA), the law enforcement arm of the EPA, and shift the work to individual programme offices (e.g. water, air), which would certainly lead to a less efficient enforcement of environmental regulations. This would suit corporations who regard environmental regulations as impeding to their activities (e.g. fracking companies). The OECA currently handles the core environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act.
To sustain one of the most anti-science crusades in recent times, the Trump team know that education is key. It is no surprise therefore that the Trump Administration has installed the spectacularly unqualified billionaire Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Mrs DeVos has donated around $200 million to the Republican Party over the years. Based on her known views, it is likely she will seek to remove any mention of climate change from teaching programmes, and seek to have so-called 'intelligent design' (a form of creationism) taught instead of evolution (the cornerstone of modern biology). 
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Adapting to Climate Change

Key Federal Resources




·         National Climate Assessment

·         Climate.gov

·         U.S. Climate Data Portal


"Adaptation" refers to the adjustments that societies or ecosystems make to limit the negative effects of climate change or to take advantage of opportunities provided by a changing climate. Adaptation can range from a farmer planting more drought-resistant crops to a coastal community evaluating how best to protect its infrastructure from rising sea level.

Climate change is already impacting societies and ecosystems around the world, and many impacts are expected to increase as global temperatures continue to rise. While reducing greenhouse gas emissions is required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, a certain amount of global warming is inevitable, due to the long-lasting nature of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, and to heat already stored in the oceans. Adapting to the changes that are already underway, and preparing for future climate change, can help reduce the risks societies will face from climate change.

Adaptation Overview

Many governments and organizations across the United States and the world are already adapting to climate change. This is important because we are already seeing the impacts of climate change – including sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, and more frequent incidences of heat waves and other extreme weather events. Many impacts are expected to grow in geographic scale, rate, or intensity as global temperatures continue to increase.

Individuals, organizations, and communities can take many steps to adapt to a changing climate – and to help plants and animals cope as well.

Adaptation actions can be:

·         Reactive: responding to conditions that have already changed.

·         Anticipatory: planning for climate change before impacts have occurred. 

Examples of Adaptation

Adaptation measures are already in place in many areas, as the examples below show. These actions can be expanded or modified to prepare for climate change. But additional measures, such as new technologies and policies, may also be needed. Such actions could require time and resources to carry out, so planning now is important.

Agriculture and Food Supply

·         Develop crop varieties that are more tolerant of heat, drought, or flooding from heavy rains.

·         Provide more shade and air flow in barns to protect livestock from higher summer temperatures.

Coasts

·         Preserve wetlands and open spaces to protect coastal communities from flooding and erosion from storms and sea level rise.

·         Improve evacuation planning for low-lying areas to prepare for increased storm surge and flooding.

Ecosystems

·         Protect and expand wildlife habitats to allow species to migrate as the climate changes.

·         Reduce pollution, habitat loss, and other stressors that make ecosystems more vulnerable to climate change.

Energy

·         Increase energy efficiency to help offset rises in energy consumption, such as from more air conditioning use as temperatures warm.

·         Strengthen energy production facilities to withstand increased flood, wind, lightning, and other storm-related stresses.

Human Health

·         Set up early warning systems and emergency response plans to prepare for more extreme weather events.

·         Educate people to help them avoid diseases that could become more prevalent as the climate changes, such as those carried by mosquitoes or ticks.

·         Plant trees and expand green spaces in cities to reduce the "urban heat island" effect.

The term "heat island" describes built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality.

Water Resources

·         Improve water use efficiency, and build additional water storage capacity.

·         Protect and restore stream and river banks to provide wildlife habitat and safeguard water resources.

EPA Adaptation Planning

Climate change is already affecting communities, livelihoods, and environments. In response, many federal agencies are taking action to help Americans adapt to current and future risks. EPA is facilitating climate change adaptation efforts in the United States and abroad through:


EPA is integrating climate adaptation planning into its programs, policies, rules, and operations to continue fulfilling its mission of protecting human health and the environment, even as the climate changes. EPA’s efforts complement initiatives throughout the entire federal government to promote climate adaptation planning.

  • EPA's Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation sets out several actions to guide EPA in building on the progress it has already made to promote climate resilience and adaptation.
  • EPA's Climate Change Adaptation Plan identifies ways in which climate change could affect EPA's ability to fulfill its mission.
  • EPA Program and Regional Office Plans detail how each office will integrate climate adaptation into its planning and work.

EPA Program Office Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Plans:


EPA Regional Office Climate Change Adaptation Implementation Plans:


EPA Adaptation Collaboration

EPA works with federal, state, tribal, local, and international partners to respond to a changing climate.

Federal Agency Activities

Federal agencies have taken important steps to lead the nation in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change. These activities are coordinated by the U.S. Global Research Program (USGCRP).  Through interagency partnerships and collaborations with leading experts, the USGCRP works to advance the science on climate change and its impacts on society, now and in the future. USGCRP convenes federal agencies and resources to focus on adaptation science and effective actions to address global change at the local, regional, and national levels. ​

States, Local Government, and Tribal Initiatives

Governments at the state, local, and tribal levels are taking important steps to prepare now for the impacts of climate change. Some of their activities are supported by EPA. 


International Efforts

Countries around the world are beginning to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. Some of their efforts are supported by:

  • EPA's Role in International Climate Adaptation is to facilitate information-sharing on climate adaptation with communities and city planners in the developing world, which is particularly vulnerable to climate change.
  • 100 Resilient Cities helps cities around the world become more resilient when faced with physical, social, and economic challenges associated with climate change.

Climate Adaptation Resources and Guidance

Many resources are available to help public officials and community members with climate change adaptation planning.

Planning and Preparedness


Transportation and Infrastructure


Sustainability


Water Utilities

  • Creating Resilient Water Utilities (CRWU) provides drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities with the practical tools, training, and tecnical assistance needed to increase resilience to extreme weather events. Through a comprehensive planning process, CRWU assists water sector utilities by promoting a clear understanding of potential long-term adaptation options. 
  • The Climate Change Handbook for Regional Water Planning provides a framework for considering climate change in water management planning.

Stormwater, Runoff, and Flooding


Coasts and Estuaries

  • The Climate Ready Estuaries program assesses climate change vulnerabilities, develops and implements adaptation strategies, and engages and educates stakeholders.
  • The Sea Level Rise Viewer simulates various sea level rise scenarios and the corresponding areas that would be impacted by flooding.
  • The Storm Surge Inundation and Hurricane Strike Frequency Map illustrates current worst-case coastal storm surge or inundation scenarios and hurricane strike frequency derived from NOAA’s Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) models.
  • The Reef Manager's Guide to Coral Bleaching provides coral reef managers with new management strategies for responding to the threat of bleaching as water temperatures rise.

Land Use


Public Health



Monday, 6 February 2017

EPA: Climate change and extreme weather


Today, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz introduced a bill to the US Congress calling for the termination of the EPA (Environment Protection Agency). This is part of an unprecedented attack by the Trump Administration on the Agency (see previous posts). Trump’s team has already started the shredding of environmental legislation put in place by the Obama Administration. This will give US corporations, particularly the oil and gas industries, more freedom to operate unrestricted by environmental legislation.

This article by Sharon Lerner, published earlier today by The Intercept, gives a good overview of how the Trump Administration is effectively dismantling the EPA. It also identifies the key players involved in the gutting of the Agency: https://theintercept.com/2017/02/05/republicans-want-to-make-the-epa-great-again-by-gutting-health-regulations/

I have been uploading pre-Trump pages from the EPA website dealing with climate change, as a back-up for my own reference and potentially for others, before they are deleted or rewritten by climate change deniers (e.g. below).

Here in the UK, Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ is marching forward hand-in-tiny-hand with the Trump Administration (with the UK looking for trade deals after it divorces from its main trading partners in Europe). There has always been a strong climate change denial link between team Trump's and the Leave campaign (especially the UKIP faction), but the past few weeks have empowered climate change deniers and fossil fuel lobby groups in the UK, and further undermining British science (which is already reeling from the disastrous impact of Brexit on European research funding, and the implications for staff and students from EU countries). In the past few days, there has been an escalation in false news stories on climate change planted by lobbyists in the media, such as this one in The Mail on Sunday: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4192182/World-leaders-duped-manipulated-global-warming-data.html. Numerous scientists now waste their time debunking these stories. For instance, here’s Zeke Hausfather on CarbonBrief debunking the Mail on Sunday story: https://www.carbonbrief.org/factcheck-mail-sundays-astonishing-evidence-global-temperature-rise



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EPA:

Understanding the Link Between Climate Change and Extreme Weather

On This Page:




Changes in Extreme Weather and Climate Events

What is extreme weather?

Extreme weather and climate events are events that:

  • typically don't happen very frequently, such as droughts or floods that have historically occurred on average only once in 100 years.
  • vary from "the norm" in severity or duration, like heat waves.
  • have severe impacts, like hurricanes.

Scientists study many aspects of change in extreme weather and climate events. These include:

  • Frequency: Are events occurring more often than they did in the past?
  • Intensity: Are events getting more severe, with the potential for more damaging effects?
  • Duration: Are events lasting longer than "the norm"?
  • Timing: Are events occurring earlier or later in the season or the year than they used to?

Extreme weather is typically rare. But climate change is increasing the odds of more extreme weather events taking place.

Climate Change and Extreme Weather



Watch the Extreme Weather Bell Curve Animation to learn how this shift is happening.

Establishing the most likely causes behind an extreme weather event can be challenging, since these events are due to combinations of multiple factors, including natural variability. Nevertheless, scientists have been able to draw a connection between some types of extreme climate patterns—an even some individual events—and climate change. A good way to think about this connection is to focus on whether an extreme weather event was made more likely by climate change.

Key Points

·         Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and/or severe around the world. This is consistent with what we expect with a warming planet.

·         Increasingly frequent and/or severe weather events have serious consequences for society and ecosystems.

·         Between 2011 and 2013, the United States experienced 32 weather events that each caused at least one billion dollars in damages.

·         Changes in some weather events are more closely linked to climate change than others.

·         Understanding the links between climate change and extreme events can help us plan for the future.

Related Links


There have been changes in some types of extreme weather events in the United States over the last several decades, including more intense and frequent heat waves, less frequent and intense cold waves, and regional changes in floods, droughts, and wildfires.[1] This rise in extreme weather events fits a pattern you can expect with a warming planet. Scientists project that climate change will make some of these extreme weather events more likely to occur and/or more likely to be severe.

Trends in Specific Extreme Weather Events

Heat Waves

  • Why does it matter? Heat waves can have serious health consequences, particularly for older adults, young children, the poor, and people with certain pre-existing health conditions, like asthma or heart disease.[1] Excessive heat can also kill or injure crops and livestock, and it can lead to power outages as heavy demand for air conditioning strains the power grid.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Even a small rise in average temperature brought on by climate change can boost the odds of extreme heat and heat waves.
  • What's happening? Climate change has increased the likelihood of more frequent and more severe heat waves. Heat waves have generally become more frequent and intense across the United States in recent decades, particularly in the western United States (including Alaska).[1] The impacts of heat waves are greatest in the Northeast and Midwest,[2] and in urban areas, where the urban heat island effect increases vulnerability to heat-related health impacts.
  • What's ahead? Heat waves are expected to become more frequent, longer, and more intense in the years ahead.[2] The number of extremely hot days is projected increase throughout the United States.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists are highly confident[2] that heat waves and other extreme heat events have and will continue to become more frequent and intense due to climate change.

Droughts


  • Why does it matter? Droughts can mean crop and livestock failures for farmers, which in turn can cause higher food prices and possibly even food shortages. Droughts can also stress water supplies and contribute to wildfires.
  • How does it relate to climate change? As temperatures rise because of climate change, more water evaporates from land and water bodies. Along with changes in precipitation patterns, this can contribute to unusual dryness in some areas.
  • What's happening? In recent decades, some regions have experienced more intense and longer droughts, while other regions have seen less frequent, less intense, or shorter droughts.[3] There has been no general trend in the overall extent of drought across the contiguous United States since 1900.[1] However, large portions of the Southwest have experienced drought conditions since weekly Drought Monitor records began in 2000.[4] Droughts are expected to be a normal condition for the southern and central United States in the next century.[1]
  • What's ahead? Summer droughts are expected to intensify almost everywhere in the continental United States due to longer periods of dry weather and more extreme heat. A number of studies project that widespread drought will become more common over much of the southern and central United States, with amplified drought severity. A reduction in soil moisture, which exacerbates heat waves, is projected for much of the western and central United States.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists are highly confident[1] that droughts have become more frequent and intense in some regions of the United States, and that climate change increases the likelihood of these severe droughts in the future, particularly in the Southwest. Factors such as changes in a region's land use or high draws on water supplies can also play a role, especially at the local level.

Wildfires


  • Why does it matter? Wildfires and their associated air pollution can cause deaths, injuries, and eye, respiratory, and cardiovascular illnesses. Large wildfires can disrupt or displace communities and have significant economic costs related to fire suppression, property damage, and losses in recreation, tourism, forestry, and related industries, They can also threaten wildlife and degrade local ecosystems.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Climate change can contribute to dry conditions through higher temperatures, increased rates of evaporation, and earlier spring snowmelt (resulting in longer dry seasons), which all increase the risk of wildfires.
  • What's happening? In recent decades, the extent of wildfires appears to have increased, particularly in the western United States.[1][4] Increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks, all caused by or linked to climate change, have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems in the Southwest.[1]
  • What's ahead? There is very high confidence[1] that under projected climate change, forests and communities in the western United States will be increasingly affected by more frequent, larger, and more intense wildfires.
  • How sure is the science? Scientists are highly confident[1] that wildfires have increased in size in the western United States and very highly confident[1] that dry conditions associated with climate change increase the likelihood of large wildfires in the future. Other factors, such as land management, land use changes, and impacts of pests, can also play a role in forest vulnerability.

Extreme Rainfall


  • Why does it matter? Extreme rainfall events can damage crops, erode soil, and increase flooding. In addition, runoff from precipitation can degrade or contaminate water quality as pollutants deposited on land wash into water bodies used by people for drinking, irrigation, and other activities.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate into the air. This moisture-laden air can produce more intense precipitation in the form of extreme rainfall events and storms.
  • What's happening? In recent years, a larger percentage of precipitation has come in the form of intense single-day events.[4] The amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased over the past few decades.[1]
  • What's ahead? It is likely that the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events will increase over most of the United States and many other areas of the globe.[5] A trend towards increase heavy precipitation will continue to occur, even in areas where total precipitation is projected to decrease.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists are highly confident[1] that across most of the United States, the heaviest rainfall events have become more intense and frequent, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, and that the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events will further increase in the future for most areas in the United States. Other factors, such as weather systems and ocean cycles like El Niño, can also play a role.

Extreme Winter Precipitation


  • Why does it matter? Heavy winter storms can disrupt transportation, the flow of goods, and emergency and medical services. A buildup of snow can collapse roofs, knock down trees and power lines, and cause flooding when it melts.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate into the air. If the temperature is still below freezing, this moisture-laden air can produce more intense precipitation in the form of unusually heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain events, even in years when total snowfall is lower than average.
  • What's happening? Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity since the 1950s, and their tracks have shifted northward over the United States.[1]
  • What's ahead? It is likely that the frequency and intensity of extreme winter precipitation events will increase in some areas of the United States, particularly in the northern states.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists have medium confidence[1] that winter storms have increased slightly in frequency and intensity.

Hurricanes


Why does it matter? Powerful hurricanes that make landfall can cause significant numbers of deaths and injuries, and disrupt or displace communities. When combined with coastal waters made higher by sea level rise, strong winds can create damaging storm surges. Hurricanes are also among the most costly extreme weather events, with severe storms causing billions of dollars in economic losses.[6][7] Even hurricanes that don't make landfall can influence waves, currents, and storm tides, which can result in property damage, flooding, and coastal erosion.

How does it relate to climate change? Increases in hurricane activity are linked to warming ocean temperatures because hurricanes draw more energy from warmer water. But the link between ocean temperature and hurricanes is complex, and other factors can also play a role in the formation and intensity of these storms.[8]

What's happening? There has been an increase in the intensity, frequency, and duration of hurricanes and in the number of strong (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes in the North Atlantic Ocean since the early 1980s.[1] However, changes in observation methods over time make it difficult to know for certain whether tropical storm activity has shown a long-term increase.[8]

What's ahead? The intensity of the strongest hurricanes is projected to continue to increase as the oceans continue to warm, bringing stronger winds and heavier rains. Whether changes in hurricane frequency or landfall will occur is less certain.[1]

How sure is the science? Scientists have medium confidence[1] that hurricane intensity and associated heavy rainfall will continue to increase under a changing climate, but significant uncertainties remain.

Tornadoes


Why does it matter? Strong tornadoes can cause deaths and injuries, disrupt or displace communities, and inflict severe damage to crops, trees, buildings, and infrastructure.

How does it relate to climate change? A warming climate can lead to stronger and more frequent thunderstorms, and these storms can spur tornadoes.[8] But scientists do not yet fully understand all of the ways in which tornadoes may be linked to climate change.

What's happening? Although the number of tornado reports has increased with better observation practices, there has been little change in the frequency of the strongest tornadoes over the past 55 years in the United States.[9]

What's ahead? With a warming climate, the thunderstorms and weather conditions that give rise to tornadoes could increase in some areas. But challenges in observing and modeling these events result in many uncertainties about how the frequency and intensity of tornadoes will change.[1][10]

How sure is the science? Scientists have low confidence[1] in projections of trends in severe storms, including the intensity and frequency of tornadoes, hail, and damaging thunderstorm winds. This is in part due to a lack of long-term and the fact that such small and often remote storms are difficult to monitor and model.

Floods

  • Why does it matter? Flooding can cause disease, deaths, and injuries; damage property and critical infrastructure such as sewer systems and wastewater treatment facilities; and disrupt or displace communities.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Heavy rainfall events, more intense storms, and changes in the timing of snowmelt can lead to more frequent or intense flooding in some areas.[1]
  • What's happening? Many regions of the United States are experiencing significant changes in the magnitude of river flooding. When averaged over the entire nation, however, the increases and decreases cancel each other out and show no national level trend. For instance, there has been an increase in flooding events in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Northeast in the last several decades, where the largest increases in heavy rain amounts have occurred. But flooding has decreased in the Southwest.[1]
  • What's ahead? Heavy rainfall events and more intense storms in some regions could lead to more frequent or intense flooding in many United States regions, even in areas where total precipitation is projected to decline.[1] There is medium confidence[10] that projected increases in heavy rainfall would contribute to increases in local flooding in some regions.
  • How sure is the science? The link between floods and climate change is a relatively new area of research, and many other factors, like land use and management practices, can trigger these events or influence how damaging they become. Scientists have high confidence[1] that there have been regional trends in floods. However, scientists have low confidence[10][1] in projections of future changes in flood frequency and intensity, because the causes of regional changes are complex.

Droughts

  • Why does it matter? Droughts can mean crop and livestock failures for farmers, which in turn can cause higher food prices and possibly even food shortages. Droughts can also stress water supplies and contribute to wildfires.
  • How does it relate to climate change? As temperatures rise because of climate change, more water evaporates from land and water bodies. Along with changes in precipitation patterns, this can contribute to unusual dryness in some areas.
  • What's happening? In recent decades, some regions have experienced more intense and longer droughts, while other regions have seen less frequent, less intense, or shorter droughts.[3] There has been no general trend in the overall extent of drought across the contiguous United States since 1900.[1] However, large portions of the Southwest have experienced drought conditions since weekly Drought Monitor records began in 2000.[4] Droughts are expected to be a normal condition for the southern and central United States in the next century.[1]
  • What's ahead? Summer droughts are expected to intensify almost everywhere in the continental United States due to longer periods of dry weather and more extreme heat. A number of studies project that widespread drought will become more common over much of the southern and central United States, with amplified drought severity. A reduction in soil moisture, which exacerbates heat waves, is projected for much of the western and central United States.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists are highly confident[1] that droughts have become more frequent and intense in some regions of the United States, and that climate change increases the likelihood of these severe droughts in the future, particularly in the Southwest. Factors such as changes in a region's land use or high draws on water supplies can also play a role, especially at the local level.

Wildfires

  • Why does it matter? Wildfires and their associated air pollution can cause deaths, injuries, and eye, respiratory, and cardiovascular illnesses. Large wildfires can disrupt or displace communities and have significant economic costs related to fire suppression, property damage, and losses in recreation, tourism, forestry, and related industries, They can also threaten wildlife and degrade local ecosystems.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Climate change can contribute to dry conditions through higher temperatures, increased rates of evaporation, and earlier spring snowmelt (resulting in longer dry seasons), which all increase the risk of wildfires.
  • What's happening? In recent decades, the extent of wildfires appears to have increased, particularly in the western United States.[1][4] Increased warming, drought, and insect outbreaks, all caused by or linked to climate change, have increased wildfires and impacts to people and ecosystems in the Southwest.[1]
  • What's ahead? There is very high confidence[1] that under projected climate change, forests and communities in the western United States will be increasingly affected by more frequent, larger, and more intense wildfires.
  • How sure is the science? Scientists are highly confident[1] that wildfires have increased in size in the western United States and very highly confident[1] that dry conditions associated with climate change increase the likelihood of large wildfires in the future. Other factors, such as land management, land use changes, and impacts of pests, can also play a role in forest vulnerability.

Extreme Rainfall

  • Why does it matter? Extreme rainfall events can damage crops, erode soil, and increase flooding. In addition, runoff from precipitation can degrade or contaminate water quality as pollutants deposited on land wash into water bodies used by people for drinking, irrigation, and other activities.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate into the air. This moisture-laden air can produce more intense precipitation in the form of extreme rainfall events and storms.
  • What's happening? In recent years, a larger percentage of precipitation has come in the form of intense single-day events.[4] The amount of rain falling on the heaviest rain days has also increased over the past few decades.[1]
  • What's ahead? It is likely that the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events will increase over most of the United States and many other areas of the globe.[5] A trend towards increase heavy precipitation will continue to occur, even in areas where total precipitation is projected to decrease.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists are highly confident[1] that across most of the United States, the heaviest rainfall events have become more intense and frequent, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, and that the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events will further increase in the future for most areas in the United States. Other factors, such as weather systems and ocean cycles like El Niño, can also play a role.

Extreme Winter Precipitation

  • Why does it matter? Heavy winter storms can disrupt transportation, the flow of goods, and emergency and medical services. A buildup of snow can collapse roofs, knock down trees and power lines, and cause flooding when it melts.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Warmer temperatures cause more water to evaporate into the air. If the temperature is still below freezing, this moisture-laden air can produce more intense precipitation in the form of unusually heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain events, even in years when total snowfall is lower than average.
  • What's happening? Winter storms have increased in frequency and intensity since the 1950s, and their tracks have shifted northward over the United States.[1]
  • What's ahead? It is likely that the frequency and intensity of extreme winter precipitation events will increase in some areas of the United States, particularly in the northern states.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists have medium confidence[1] that winter storms have increased slightly in frequency and intensity.

Hurricanes

  • Why does it matter? Powerful hurricanes that make landfall can cause significant numbers of deaths and injuries, and disrupt or displace communities. When combined with coastal waters made higher by sea level rise, strong winds can create damaging storm surges. Hurricanes are also among the most costly extreme weather events, with severe storms causing billions of dollars in economic losses.[6][7] Even hurricanes that don't make landfall can influence waves, currents, and storm tides, which can result in property damage, flooding, and coastal erosion.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Increases in hurricane activity are linked to warming ocean temperatures because hurricanes draw more energy from warmer water. But the link between ocean temperature and hurricanes is complex, and other factors can also play a role in the formation and intensity of these storms.[8]
  • What's happening? There has been an increase in the intensity, frequency, and duration of hurricanes and in the number of strong (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes in the North Atlantic Ocean since the early 1980s.[1] However, changes in observation methods over time make it difficult to know for certain whether tropical storm activity has shown a long-term increase.[8]
  • What's ahead? The intensity of the strongest hurricanes is projected to continue to increase as the oceans continue to warm, bringing stronger winds and heavier rains. Whether changes in hurricane frequency or landfall will occur is less certain.[1]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists have medium confidence[1] that hurricane intensity and associated heavy rainfall will continue to increase under a changing climate, but significant uncertainties remain.

Tornadoes

  • Why does it matter? Strong tornadoes can cause deaths and injuries, disrupt or displace communities, and inflict severe damage to crops, trees, buildings, and infrastructure.
  • How does it relate to climate change? A warming climate can lead to stronger and more frequent thunderstorms, and these storms can spur tornadoes.[8] But scientists do not yet fully understand all of the ways in which tornadoes may be linked to climate change.
  • What's happening? Although the number of tornado reports has increased with better observation practices, there has been little change in the frequency of the strongest tornadoes over the past 55 years in the United States.[9]
  • What's ahead? With a warming climate, the thunderstorms and weather conditions that give rise to tornadoes could increase in some areas. But challenges in observing and modeling these events result in many uncertainties about how the frequency and intensity of tornadoes will change.[1][10]
  • How sure is the science? Scientists have low confidence[1] in projections of trends in severe storms, including the intensity and frequency of tornadoes, hail, and damaging thunderstorm winds. This is in part due to a lack of long-term and the fact that such small and often remote storms are difficult to monitor and model.

Floods

  • Why does it matter? Flooding can cause disease, deaths, and injuries; damage property and critical infrastructure such as sewer systems and wastewater treatment facilities; and disrupt or displace communities.
  • How does it relate to climate change? Heavy rainfall events, more intense storms, and changes in the timing of snowmelt can lead to more frequent or intense flooding in some areas.[1]
  • What's happening? Many regions of the United States are experiencing significant changes in the magnitude of river flooding. When averaged over the entire nation, however, the increases and decreases cancel each other out and show no national level trend. For instance, there has been an increase in flooding events in the Midwest, Great Plains, and Northeast in the last several decades, where the largest increases in heavy rain amounts have occurred. But flooding has decreased in the Southwest.[1]
  • What's ahead? Heavy rainfall events and more intense storms in some regions could lead to more frequent or intense flooding in many United States regions, even in areas where total precipitation is projected to decline.[1] There is medium confidence[10] that projected increases in heavy rainfall would contribute to increases in local flooding in some regions.
  • How sure is the science? The link between floods and climate change is a relatively new area of research, and many other factors, like land use and management practices, can trigger these events or influence how damaging they become. Scientists have high confidence[1] that there have been regional trends in floods. However, scientists have low confidence[10][1] in projections of future changes in flood frequency and intensity, because the causes of regional changes are complex.

Adaptation: Reducing the Threat of Climate Change and Preparing for Impacts

Extreme weather and climate events pose a serious threat to the health and welfare of American families and businesses. For instance, between 2011 and 2013, the United States experienced 32 weather events that each caused at least one billion dollars in damages.[7] 2012 ranks as 2nd costliest year on record, with more than $110 billion in damages.


This map summarizes the number of times each state has been affected by weather and climate events over the past 30 years that have resulted in more than a billion dollars in damages. The Southeast has been affected by more billion-dollar disasters than any other region. The primary disaster type for coastal states such as Florida is hurricanes, while interior and northern states in the region also experience sizeable numbers of tornadoes and winter storms. For a list of events and the affected states,
see: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events
Source: USGCRP (2014) Billion Dollar Weather/Climate Disasters.

EPA is taking a number of common-sense actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help cities and towns build more resilient communities to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate, including the weather extremes described above.

For more information about climate adaptation and things you can do to prepare for changes in extreme weather events, see Climate Change Adaptation.

For more information on how you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, on the road, and in your workplace, see What You Can Do.

References

[1] USGCRP (2014). Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, Eds. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. U.S. Global Change Research Program, 841 pp. 

[2] US EPA (2006). Excessive Heat Events Guidebook.

[3] CCSP (2008). Weather and climate extremes in a changing climate. Synthesis and Assessment Product 3.3.


[5] AMS (2013). Kunkel, K.E., T.R. Karl, H. Brooks, J. Kossin, J. Lawrimore, D. Arndt, L. Bosart, D. Changnon, S.L. Cutter, N. Doesken, K. Emanuel, P.Ya. Groisman, R.W. Katz, T. Knutson, J. O'Brien, C. J. Paciorek, T. Peterson, K. Redmond, D. Robinson, J. Trapp, R. Vose, S. Weaver, M. Wehner, K. Wolter, and D. Wuebbles. 2013. Monitoring and understanding changes in extreme storm statistics: State of knowledge. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 94:499-514.

[6] NOAA (2013). Smith, A.B., and R.W. Katz. 2013. U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: Data sources, trends, accuracy and biases. Natural Hazards 67:387-410.

[7] NOAA (2013). Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center.

[8] IPCC (2013). Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 p.

[9] NOAA (2013). Historical records and trends. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center.

[10] IPCC (2012). Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.