Neville Nicholls

Published On


Page Range

pp. 161-168

Print Length

7 pages


This chapter begins with a grim but tangible example of the effect of unprecedented weather extremes: the Australian heatwave and wildfires of 2009, which claimed more than 600 lives. As these unfortunate disruptions to weather increase (one of the many upshots of global warming), scientists and governmental bodies must improve their ability to predict these events, in the absence of real political change. The stakes could not be higher; the European heatwave of 2003, for example, resulted in up to 70,000 deaths. The chapter highlights improvements in weather prediction, with most national services able to predict a week in advance, more accurately than forecasters in the 1970s could predict a day. This allows for greater multi-agency responses to weather emergencies and better modeling of the effects of global warming on weather trajectories. While the changing frequency of temperature extremes over the past fifty years is palpable, patterns in other extreme weather events are more difficult to identify, and this chapter unpacks various reasons why this is the case. In turn, improvements in seasonal climate forecasting (e.g., forecasting El Niño) will enable us to respond more effectively to the consequences of drought and other inter-annual weather variability, through crop management and timelier deployment of food relief.