NEW YORK — Floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: From smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan and the high arctic, the planet seems to be having a midsummer breakdown. It's not just a portent of things to come, some scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way.
The weather-related cataclysms of July and August fit patterns predicted by climate scientists, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization says — although those scientists always shy from tying individual disasters directly to global warming.
The experts now see an urgent need for better ways to forecast extreme events like Russia's heat wave and wildfires and the record deluge devastating Pakistan. They'll discuss such tools in meetings this month and next in Europe and the United States, under United Nations, U.S. and British government sponsorship.
The U.N. network of climate scientists — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — has long predicted that rising global temperatures would produce more frequent and intense heat waves, and more intense rainfalls. In its latest assessment, in 2007, the Nobel Prize-winning panel went beyond that. It said these trends "have already been observed," in an increase in heat waves since 1950, for example.
British government climatologist Peter Stott and NASA's Gavin Schmidt at the Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York said it's best to think of the effects of warming in terms of odds: Warming might double the chances for a heat wave, for example. "That is exactly what's happening," Schmidt said, "a lot more warm extremes and less cold extremes."
The United States remains the only major industrialized nation not to have legislated caps on carbon emissions, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week withdrew climate legislation in the face of resistance from Republicans and some Democrats.