Until recently, climate change was talked about as a kind of future threat, says CNN. But in the last month, developed countries have faced this problem live.
Over the past four weeks, floods in Germany have swept the streets and swallowed houses that have stood for more than a century in the quiet village of Schuld. Known for its cool mountain air, the Canadian town of only 250 people was burned to the ground by a wildfire that followed the unprecedented heat.
And in the western United States, just weeks after the historic heat wave, about 20,000 firefighters and rescue workers were deployed to extinguish 80 major fires that spanned over 1 million acres (4,047 square kilometers).
Climatologists have warned for decades that the climate crisis will lead to even more extreme weather conditions. They said it would be deadly and more frequent. But many are surprised to see heat and rain records hitting such a big lead.
Since the 1970s, scientists have been fairly accurate in predicting the degree of global warming, CNN tells CNN. Their models are harder to predict – even as computers get more powerful – how intense the impact will be.
Michael E. Mann, director of the Center for Earth Sciences at Pennsylvania State University, told CNN that the past few weeks have shown the limitations of climate change models.
“There is an important factor in many of these events, including the recent emergence of a ‘heat dome’ in the West, that is not reflected in climate models,” says Michael Mann. “Models underestimate the magnitude of the impact of climate change on extreme weather events.”
Mann explained that in climate models, everyday weather is just noise. It looks a lot like chaos. Only the most extreme events can act as a clear signal.
“The signal is emerging from the noise faster than the models predicted,” Mann said. “The real-world signal is now large enough for us to ‘see’, even though the models did not see it coming.”
This means that historical events such as floods in Germany or wildfires in Canada were not included in the forecasts. Scientists say we need even more powerful climate models to do this.
Collected dramatic videos of floods in Germany: “Sucked under the bridge”
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Tim Palmer, professor of climate physics at Oxford University, is one of several scientists who have called for a global simulation center that would house an exascale supercomputer — a machine capable of processing a mind-boggling amount of data.
Scientists and governments created the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in the 1950s when it became clear that developing particle physics would require a machine so expensive that hardly any single country could develop one.
“As an international organization, CERN has achieved tremendous success,” Palmer told CNN. “This is what we need to combat climate change.”
Scientists use computer simulations of weather phenomena to make predictions of how they might change for decades to come. But they cannot scale up even to the city level to predict the most extreme events. Despite technological advances, computers are generally still not sophisticated enough to handle such high resolutions.
Palmer said climate models should achieve this. “If we are spending trillions of dollars globally to adapt to climate change, we need to know exactly what we are adapting to,” Palmer said, “whether it be floods, droughts, storms or rising sea levels.”
While the recent extreme weather events in the Northern Hemisphere caught many by surprise, they “weren’t entirely unexpected,” said Richard Allan, professor of climatology at the University of Reading. “This is what science has always pointed to.” But he agrees that better computers would be useful for making more detailed and better predictions.
“It is also difficult to assess how weather conditions will shift and change in the future, including whether western flows over Europe will more often be blocked, causing thunderstorms to stall in one place, as was the case in Europe in July 2021, or long and sustained waves heat, for example, over western North America, ”Allan said.
Even without such detailed modeling, climate activists – and, increasingly, communities affected by extreme weather events – are calling for more action to tackle climate change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said over the weekend: “We must hurry, we must act faster in the fight against climate change.”
Powerful wildfires engulfed the western regions of the United States: fire footage
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Several developed countries, including the United States, have significantly increased their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions this year. The European Union last week unveiled an ambitious plan to put climate at the center of virtually all of its development and economic initiatives, CNN recalls.
Merrit Turetski, director of the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research, hopes that these weather events in the developed world will provoke similar actions.
“Maybe this is a necessary evil,” says Merrit Turetski. – We used to think of front lines as problems of island states due to rising sea levels or melting Arctic. We know there is cognitive dissonance when climate change affects people so far away from you and everything you know. We tend to shelve it because it’s one thing to see what is being said, but quite another to feel it. We are at a point where everyone on the planet has now felt the impact of climate change itself, or at least someone they love or know is experiencing it. It’s getting closer and closer. “