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Professor Gabriele C Hegerl

Abstract: Are Recent Extreme Events Different from Those in the Past?

Recent extreme events are being carefully analysed by the community to determine to what extent human influences have changed the nature and impact of such events. However, extreme weather and climate events have occurred in the past, and some had very large impacts. Their analysis can broaden our sample of observed events, and bring out lessons for the future. This will be illustrated for the case of the US Dustbowl drought and heat events in the 1930s, which led to long-term records of heat and caused severe impacts. Even at the time, the there was a small influence of greenhouse gases, and the heat would be more severe in today’s climate. Importantly, the mechanisms and soil moisture feedbacks that led to the extreme conditions at the time are a powerful warning about mechanisms that may exacerbate future extreme events.

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Gabriele C Hegerl is a Professor of Climate System Science at the University of Edinburgh School of GeoSciences. Her research focuses on understanding the causes of climate change and using observations to constrain predictions of future climate change. She has determined causes of change in temperature, rainfall, and extreme events, and she has co-authored the US National Academies’ report on extreme event attribution. Gabriele had key roles in scientific assessments of climate change (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and has been an author on the IPCC synthesis report which brings together understanding of physical climate change, its impacts and the economics of climate change and mitigation. Gabriele is a fellow of the Royal Society, the Leopoldina, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.