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Keywords:

  • climate change;
  • climate variability;
  • disaster;
  • floods;
  • heatwaves;
  • natural hazards;
  • risk;
  • tropical cyclones

Abstract

Human emissions of greenhouse gases are already changing our climate. This paper provides an overview of the relation between climate change and weather extremes, and examines three specific cases where recent acute events have stimulated debate on the potential role of climate change: the European heatwave of 2003; the risk of inland flooding, such as recently in Central Europe and Great Britain; and the harsh Atlantic hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. Furthermore, it briefly assesses the relation between climate change and El Niño, and the potential of abrupt climate change. Several trends in weather extremes are sufficiently clear to inform risk reduction efforts. In many instances, however, the potential increases in extreme events due to climate change come on top of alarming rises in vulnerability. Hence, the additional risks due to climate change should not be analysed or treated in isolation, but instead integrated into broader efforts to reduce the risk of natural disasters.