4. Extreme heat events have become more frequent and severe
You only need to think of recent devastating wildfires in Australia, California or southern Europe to see that climate change is leading to more frequent and more severe hot weather events. The kind of extreme heat event that would have only happened on average once every ten years between 1850 and 1900 now likely occurs 2.8 times every ten years, and is likely to occur 4.1 times every ten years in a world that hits 1.5C of future warming. The same is true of once-in-every-50-years events. They’re now more likely to occur 4.8 times in 50 years, and in a post-1.5C world that will be 8.6 times every 50 years.
Heavy rain is also more common because of climate change. The kind of heavy one-day rain that 150 years ago would have only happened once every ten years is now happening 1.3 times every ten years. In a world warmed by 1.5C, that will go up to 1.5 times. And as frequency increases, so does severity – we can expect these extreme weather events to be hotter and wetter than those that went before them.
In May 2016, to make visualizing climate change easier for the general public, University of Reading climate scientist Ed Hawkins created an animated spiral graphic of global temperature change as a function of time, a representation said to have gone viral. Jason Samenow wrote in The Washington Post that the spiral graph was “the most compelling global warming visualization ever made”, before it was featured in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
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