Many extreme events of 2023 in line with predictions of warmer world, study finds

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New Delhi: Multiple regions across the world simultaneously experiencing heat extremes could become an “emerging feature” of a warmer planet, according to a new study.

The new research that reviewed the weather and climate of 2023 also said that many of the extreme events experienced last year are consistent with predictions previously made about a warmer world.

Putting the events of the warmest year on record in perspective, researchers said that in a warmer future, more events involving record-breaking hot temperatures occurring earlier in the year, and cyclones exacerbating rainfall extremes are in order.

Change in seasonality of extreme events too is another trend the researchers observed.

“We are seeing extremes appearing in seasons in which they are usually less likely. Heatwaves, for example, appeared in spring 2023 in southwestern Europe, Brazil, Morocco and South Africa,” Robin Clark of the Met Office in the UK, a co-author of the study published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Science, said.

Further, multiple regions across the world simultaneously experiencing heat extremes could become an “emerging feature” of a warmer planet, the researchers said. Many regions of North America, southern Europe, northern Africa, and Asia together experienced record-breaking hot extremes in the month of July last year.

The team also found that intense cyclones exacerbated rainfall extremes such as the Libya flooding in September and the North China flooding in July 2023.

They said that an increased occurrences of such events too are in line with projections about the future under continued global warming.

“Many of 2023’s events are consistent with projected future changes in a warmer world, showing the challenges that are to come, while some were a surprise, suggesting there is still more to learn about what’s potentially around the corner,” Wenxia Zhang from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the lead author of the paper, said.

Droughts in California in the US and the Horn of Africa transitioned into floods in 2023, and more of such events are projected to occur in the coming decades, the authors said.

The compounding effects of drought-to-flood events can be more severe compared to when floods and droughts occur separately, they said.

The researchers also found that wildfires, such as those that occurred in Hawaii and Canada last year, are causing widespread damage, along with threatening emissions targets aimed at limiting global warming.

Ecosystems have come under immense pressure due to wildfires, they said.

The authors called for improved predictions and early warning systems to be better prepared for climate hazards.

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