Steve Vavrus on how climate change could affect extreme weather

April 29, 2011

The earth's delicate climate balance is undergoing a radical, human-caused transformation, and the changes will disrupt much in our world, says Steve Vavrus, a senior scientist with the Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, in a recent video feature for the magazine The Nation.

"We've grown accustomed to the current climate—our bridges are built a certain way, our agriculture is built a certain way, our roads are constructed based on the recent past climate fluctuations, including extreme events," Vavrus says. "If those change, however they change, that's going to be a stress and stress is difficult, it's expensive, and it typically does cause hardships."

Vavrus studies the response of global and regional climate to increasing greenhouse gases at the Center for Climatic Research, particularly how such changes could affect polar regions and extreme weather events. He is also exploring the origin of anthropogenic climate change and the impact of weather extremes on human health and infrastructure.

"The issue with global warming or any kind of climate change—global warming being the most immediate—is that the characteristics of extreme events are likely to change," Vavrus continues.

"The heat waves may become more intense and more frequent, cold waves may change, hurricanes could become more intense or less frequent… We think that these extreme events, which cause a disproportionate amount of impact for humans and the entire ecosystem, are likely to change and we're trying to figure out the timing of those changes, the changes in intensity, the spatial changes across the world, and so on."

View the three-minute video below.