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New forecast model urged for extremes

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.

points out that this summer's events fit the international scientists' projections of "more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming."

Russia: Western Russia's toxic smog is blamed for 700 deaths a day in Moscow. Drought reduced the wheat harvest by one-third.

Pakistan:

China:

Arctic: in Greenland's far northwest, the most massive ice island to break away in the arctic in a half-century of observation. In the Arctic Ocean, the summer melt has reached unprecedented proportions.

Worldwide: show that this January through June was the hottest first half of a year in 150 years of global climate record keeping. Scientists blame the warming on carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases pouring into the atmosphere from human sources.

New forecast model urged for extremes 08/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 13, 2010 12:12am]
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