Research to look at climate's effects on GDP, El Nino and severe weather

Research to look at climate's effects on GDP, El Nino and severe weather

NOAA researchers to develop model that considers many factors when calculating economic loss due to changes in climate and more frequent severe weather

Rising greenhouse gases could have negative effects on countries' economic output and contribute to more extreme El Ninos – triggering more severe weather – new NOAA research in the Journal Nature Climate Change says.

Related: Models uncertain about climate change impact on soil moisture

In one of three articles with NOAA authors, physical scientist Sarah Kapnick of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory teamed up with University of Arizona economist Derek Lemoine to propose a new method to predict how regional warming will affect the Gross Domestic Product of nations around the world.

NOAA researchers to develop model that considers many factors when calculating economic loss due to changes in climate and more frequent severe weather

Combining recent physical models, socio-economic information and the economic impacts of past warming periods, Kapnick and Lemoine project that future warming could raise the average rate of economic growth in richer countries, reduce it in poorer countries and increase the variability of many countries' growth rates as warming increases climate variability.

"Our paper shows that poorer countries are more susceptible to climate change than richer countries and less able to adapt," Kapnick said. "This research gives us another tool to calculate the costs of climate change."

According to Lemoine, the forecast doesn't point to good news in any countries.

"We're looking at a certain slice of how near-term climate change affects GDP," he explained. "This does not take into account the full value of having a forest standing, having diverse species or other nonmarket values."

Future research, he said, will require drilling down on nonmarket costs.

El Ninos, GHGs and severe weather
Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist from NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, discusses in a commentary in Nature Climate Change why a much anticipated El Niño did not occur in 2014, but an unforeseen strong El Niño is developing in 2015.

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McPhaden suggests several possible reasons, among which are long-term changes in background oceanic and atmospheric conditions, including warming trends in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific due to greenhouse gas emissions.

These background conditions affect the development of El Niño and its impacts by modifying feedbacks between the ocean and the atmosphere in the tropical Pacific.

Related: Risks to ag, rural Midwest evident if no action taken on climate change

McPhaden stresses the need for more research to improve prediction of El Niño, the dominant year-to-year climate phenomenon driving extreme weather conditions worldwide.

In another paper, McPhaden and Gabriel Vecchi of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory join with 15 other researchers to suggest that greenhouse warming is likely to contribute to more extreme El Niños and La Niñas in the future, triggering more catastrophic weather events.

"Research to improve the prediction of El Niño is so important to the world and also to our own country," Vecchi said. "If we can confidently predict El Niño we can say something about what kind of weather to expect in the coming winter in various regions of our country. This will allow us to give communities and businesses environmental information to enable better decisions by organizations and individuals."

Continued reading: USDA lays out broad climate change mitigation plan

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