Climate and weather extremes are sporadically recurring events that may have major local or regional impacts on the society and the environment. These events are typically related to unusually high or low temperature, prolonged dry or wet conditions, heavy precipitation, or extreme winds. Extreme events are part of the overall climate and weather alongside average conditions and variability, and thus are not unexpected as such. Climate change is expected to affect not only means but also variability and extremes. Some inferences can be based on past and present observations, but analyses of especially rare events are hampered by the availability of long time series. Over time, depending on how far the on-going global warming takes us from the present and the past climate conditions, the weather and climate statistics may well come to shift in ways that are well outside observational data. This may lead to shifts in frequency, intensity and geographical distribution of different extremes. Indeed, projected changes in some extremes over the 21st century are quite robust, such as generally increasing warm and decreasing cold extremes. Possible changes in some other aspects, for example storms, remain much more uncertain. Science-based information both on robust findings and on relevant uncertainties on changing extremes can provide useful information for sectorial planning, disaster risk prevention and overall reduction of societal vulnerability related to climate and weather. WIREs Clim Change 2012, 3:115–129. doi: 10.1002/wcc.160
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