Understanding local weather key to coping with climate change

By Alex Kirby

If you want to know how climate change is going to affect us you really need to see what the weather is doing, a leading British climate scientist has said.

Martin Parry, visiting professor at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, and visiting research fellow at Imperial’s Grantham Institute for Climate Change, said understanding how changing climates were affecting weather at a local scale was vital.

He was speaking while attending Impacts World 2013, a conference on climate change effects organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, IIASA.

Professor Parry is a former co-chair of Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

He told the Climate News Network it was vital to know more about the probable regional impacts of climate change, as well as its overall consequences for the planet.

“To get the granularity at regional level would help to inform policy”, he said. “The global numbers are thin: some parts of the world are blank.”

Understanding how climate change will affect localised weather is key to adapting successfully (Source: Flickr/NASA Goddard)

The conference heard from one earlier speaker that the impact on India, for example, could mean that dry areas would become 30% more arid while those that were already well-watered would become 30% wetter.

Another said the effects of climate change on food security in the Northern Hemisphere had been seriously underestimated.

He said the further warming to which the world was already unavoidably committed meant that severe regional problems lay ahead, which would have a worldwide effect.

Crop losses

He concluded: “The evidence from the science is overwhelming. Under our best ideas of mitigation, the Northern Hemisphere is committed… to large losses of all crops. We are clearly committed to a dire food security emergency situation in the Northern Hemisphere and, therefore, globally.”

Professor Parry said: “Weather changes will have just as important an effect as changes in the climate itself, and understanding them can help us to choose better options for climate adaptation, and what they will cost us.

“Look at the way the North Atlantic jet stream has been varying over the last two or three years, bringing unseasonally cold and wet weather to countries like the UK. That’s a nice little microcosm of granularity.”

Professor Parry said one of the pressure points to have emerged from the conference was the fact that weather was showing more variability over the shorter term, for instance the occurrence in Europe of monsoon-type rains.

This article was produced by the Climate News Network

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