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Speaker: Greg Holland (NESL/MMM)
When: 11:00 a.m. Friday, April 6, 2012
Where: Foothills Lab 2, Room 1022 (Large Auditorium)
Societal vulnerability to weather arises largely from relatively rare events at the extremes of the spectrum. Such high-impact weather includes: extended droughts, heat waves, major hurricanes, extreme local rainfall and snowfall, ice storms, European wind storms, and severe local storms and tornadoes. Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, our vulnerability to property loss and societal disruption is increasing as society becomes more complex and interconnected, and as private, industrial and commercial development expands in high-risk areas. Understanding and predicting variations and changes in weather extremes is thus a major societal issue, encompassing urban commercial and industrial planning, watershed maintenance and design, insurance types and premiums, and government policy.
In this presentation I examine the difficulties of differentiating climate change from variability and the question of when observable human-induced climate change commenced, together with the use of extreme value theory to objectively assess the intensity and frequency of extreme events. These two themes lead to the suggestion that weather extremes respond strongly to climate variability and change and, somewhat non-intuitively, that such variability and change is best interpreted through weather extremes. Finally the potential of climate change contributions to current high-impact weather events will be assessed.