SPARC Header

Inside the Greenhouse

Extreme Events and Climate Change


The goal of the Extreme Events and Climate Change activity is to investigate the relative magnitude of various causes of the growing societal impacts of weather and climate extremes in order to better understand the relation between the needs of decision makers and the priorities expressed in the climate science portfolio. This project will address factors influencing the increasing costs of disasters, and how research priorities compare to the relative influence of such factors on outcomes of interest to decision makers.


Our strategy involves building on our past work in this area by continuing evaluation of the anticipated impact of weather and climate extremes on society to provide information about the relative sensitivity of impacts on various causal factors. In the first 18 months of the project, we propose to:

  1. Conduct literature reviews and produce summaries of current knowledge of the relative significance of climate changes (observed and projected) on disasters in the context of ongoing societal changes.

  2. A graduate student will focus a MS thesis on a sensitivity analysis of future flood impacts to changes in population, wealth and climate.

  3. Organize a workshop focused on documenting, from a global perspective, what is know about the relative significance of climate versus societal factors, and their interplay, for future disasters, and the significance of such understandings from the perspective of climate research priorities.

We are holding a workshop titled "Climate Change and Disaster Losses: Understanding and Attribution Trends and Projections" on 25-26 May 2006 hosted by Munich Re and co-sponsored by SPARC, GKSS Institute for Coastal Research, and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.


By the end of the project, we seek to have greater conceptual and quantitative clarity on quantitative and qualitative predictions and observations of the multiple causes of impacts on disasters, in order to identify strong causal links. These results will contribute to the evaluation of current priorities in climate research and the design of a supply-and-demand reconciliation exercise for decision-making on climate change and extreme events.

Panel Session of the Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate of the National Research Council: On November 3, 2005, Roger Pielke, Jr. participated in a panel session of the Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate of the National Research Council. Also on the panel were Kerry Emanuel (MIT), Greg Holland (UCAR, and co-author of the recent Webster et al. 2005 paper in Science), and Rick Anthes (UCAR).

For more information, contact Roger Pielke, Jr.