Study links climate change with recent droughts, heat waves and other extreme weather

E&E  • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013

A new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany suggests climate change is at the root of recent extreme weather, such as the European heat wave of 2003, flooding in Pakistan in 2010 and a heat wave in the United States in 2011.

The study focused on airflows that travel around the Northern Hemisphere and determined that these systems have slowed, becoming less effective in moving warm air from tropic regions northward and cold Arctic air southward.

“During several recent extreme weather events, these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks,” wrote Vladimir Petoukhov, who led the study.

The airflows are usually influenced by temperature differences between the Arctic and warmer southern regions, but warmer weather up north could be slowing the movement of the waves.

Petoukhov and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, co-author and director of the Potsdam Institute, called their findings “quite a breakthrough” but said the 32-year study could neither predict future climate change events nor rule out natural causes for the change in airflows (Reuters/London Guardian, Feb. 26)