Geographia Polonica (2007) vol. 80, iss. 2

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Extreme Hydro-meteorological Events and their Impacts. From the Global down to the Regional Scale

Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz, Jacek A. Jania

Geographia Polonica (2007) vol. 80, iss. 2, pp. 9-24

Abstract

Despite the progress in technology, the risk of weather-related disasters has not beeneradicated and never will be. On the global scale, disasters are becoming both more frequentand more destructive, annually causing material losses worth tens of billions of Euros, as well asseveral thousand fatalities. Furthermore, catastrophic weather events have been the subject of arapid upward trend, with the value of material damage increasing by an order of magnitude overthe last four decades, in inflation-adjusted monetary units. There is now an increasing body ofevidence of ongoing planetary climate change (global warming), which has brought about considerablechanges where extreme hydro-meteorological events are concerned, and is likely to leadto even more marked changes in the future. Typically, changes in extremes are more pronouncedand exert more impact than changes in mean values. Among the extremes on the rise are thenumber of hot days and tropical nights; the duration and intensity of heatwaves; precipitationintensity (and resulting floods, landslides and mudflows); the frequency, length and severity ofdroughts; glacier and snow melt; tropical cyclone intensity and sea level and storm surges. In turn,a ubiquitous decrease in cold extremes (number of cool days and nights, and frost days) is projected.Increases in climate extremes associated with climate change are likely to cause physicaldamage and population displacement, as well as having adverse effects on food production andthe availability and quality of fresh water. A discussion of hydro-meteorological extremes andtheir impacts is therefore provided here in relation to a range of scales, and with the context foradaptation and mitigation also being alluded to.

Keywords: extreme events; hydrometeorology; climate variability; climate change; climate change impacts

Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz, Research Centre for the Agricultural and Forest Environment, Polish Academy of Sciences Bukowska 19, 60-809 Poznań, Poland
Jacek A. Jania, Faculty of Earth Sciences, University of Silesia ul. Będzińska 60, 41-200 Sosnowiec, Poland