‘Snowtober’ fits U.N. climate change predictions


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While the Northeast is still reeling from a surprise October snowstorm that has left more than a million people without power for days, the United Nations is about to release its latest document on adaptation to climate change.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected conclude that there is a high probability that man-made greenhouse gases already are causing extreme weather that has cost governments, insurers, businesses and individuals billions of dollars. And it is certain to predict that costs due to extreme weather will rise and some areas of the world will become more perilous places to live.


Federal climate scientists have labeled 2011 as one of the worst in American history for extreme weather, with punishing blizzards, epic flooding, devastating drought and a heat wave that has broiled a huge swath of the country. Weather related losses amounted to more than $35 billion even before the Nor'easter shellacked the East Coast.

Among the more costly events in the U.S. this year was the flooding of the Mississippi River and tributaries due to rapid melting of the Rocky Mountain snowpack and early spring rains. That event, which prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to open a Mississippi River spillway and flood more than 4,000 acres in Louisiana, caused billion of dollars in direct damage.

April also spawned 875 tornado reports nationwide, well above the 30-year average for the month of 135. The ‘super outbreak,’ as climatologists dubbed it, killed 327 people.

Drought in Texas has caused more than $5.4 billion in damage to the cattle industry alone, driving up beef prices, while wildfires consumed 2 million acres. A heat wave throughout much of the country caused 29 states to issue heat advisories in July. Nationwide, the hot spell was blamed for scores of deaths.

The ‘Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation’ will be released Nov. 18. It builds on the climate change panel’s previous assessments of the Earth’s climate, and is intended to help governments and policymakers boost preparedness for extreme weather events.


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-- Geoff Mohan