In The Field

AGU – Record of extreme weather events globally

With the many concerns over climate change, scientists are submitting a growing number of reports on extreme weather events – cyclones, droughts, or gales of 100 mph winds. These abstracts provide access to details not easily available to researchers, historians or journalists; particularly, if the events occur in countries that sometimes control the media. Consider reports of a devastating ice storm in south China early this year. A team at the Research Institute of Subtropical Forestry in Zhejiang presented reports at the American Geophysical Union meeting on the widespread damage. The extent of the economic impact of the harsh and unexpected freeze is just now being tabulated by researchers like the Institute’s Benzhi Zhou; Zhou and colleagues were assisted in San Francisco by Lianghong Gu of the Oakridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Zhou’s report noted the damage: at least 125 people dead; costs of $22 billion yuan; more than 19 million hectares of forests in 19 provinces damaged; more than 14 million hectares of crops (oilseed rape, vegetables, fruits) affected; and 30,000 protected wildlife threatened. The team offered suggestions for damage control. But they aren’t sure the government is listening, as the gravity of the event isn’t fully acknowledged or appreciated.

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