Recent Natural Catastrophes Are Probably Partly Man-Made

Emily Holbrook


March 28, 2013

The 2010 floods in Pakistan that killed more than 1,700, the 2011 heat wave that devastated crops throughout the United States and the 2012 Russian floods can be blamed on society. That’s according to researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany.

The scientists claim that man-made greenhouse gas emissions have trapped large air waves in the atmosphere and caused these recent weather events. The study states that air motion in the mid-latitudes of the Earth usually takes the form of waves floating around the planet, moving between tropical and Arctic regions.

“During several recent extreme weather events, these planetary waves almost freeze in their tracks for weeks,” said Vladimir Petoukhov, the study’s lead author. So instead of cool air sweeping in, the heat stays—often with disastrous results.

Though the scientists point to global warming as the likely cause for these recent weather catastrophes, they also cautioned that the 32-year period used in the study is too short for definitive conclusions, stating that additional factors, including natural variability, certainly play a role as well.

Even so, some consider this research a breakthrough in helping explain the relationship between extreme weather and climate change.
Emily Holbrook is the founder of Red Label Writing, LLC, a writing, editing and content strategy firm catering to insurance and risk management businesses and publications, and a former editor of Risk Management.