New Forecasting System Needed – for Sep. 9, 2010

Asia’s heavy monsoons, a record heat wave in Russia and severe droughts in Africa show the need for new yardsticks to rate extreme weather to guide everybody from road builders to insurance companies, a UN expert said Aug. 13.

Scales exist to measure the power of hurricanes or air quality, but there are none to quantify risks from heat waves, floods and droughts which are likely to become more extreme and frequent because of global warming.

A series of disasters, including floods in Pakistan and mud-slides in China, have followed droughts in Australia and a record number of high-temperature days in the eastern United States, said Ghassem Asrar of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“The general conclusion is the magnitude, the severity and extent of extreme events will be greater, which means we have to prepare,” Asrar, director of the WMO’s World Climate Research Program, told Reuters in an interview.

“We need to develop standards, or indices, with a degree of confidence in our assessment to deal with extreme weather,” he said.

He said Willis Group Holdings, the world’s third-largest insurance broker, was co-sponsoring a WMO workshop in Paris from Sept. 27 to 29 attended by climate scientists and statisticians.

The workshop, expected to attract about 100 people, would try to translate existing scientific models on extreme weather events into a quantitative scale that the public can easily understand.

“We will examine how very difficult scientific concepts can be boiled down into simple measures or yardsticks for the non-expert to use,” Asrar said.

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