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Concept: Weather hazards


The flood hazard in New York City depends on both storm surges and rising sea levels. We combine modeled storm surges with probabilistic sea-level rise projections to assess future coastal inundation in New York City from the preindustrial era through 2300 CE. The storm surges are derived from large sets of synthetic tropical cyclones, downscaled from RCP8.5 simulations from three CMIP5 models. The sea-level rise projections account for potential partial collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet in assessing future coastal inundation. CMIP5 models indicate that there will be minimal change in storm-surge heights from 2010 to 2100 or 2300, because the predicted strengthening of the strongest storms will be compensated by storm tracks moving offshore at the latitude of New York City. However, projected sea-level rise causes overall flood heights associated with tropical cyclones in New York City in coming centuries to increase greatly compared with preindustrial or modern flood heights. For the various sea-level rise scenarios we consider, the 1-in-500-y flood event increases from 3.4 m above mean tidal level during 1970-2005 to 4.0-5.1 m above mean tidal level by 2080-2100 and ranges from 5.0-15.4 m above mean tidal level by 2280-2300. Further, we find that the return period of a 2.25-m flood has decreased from ∼500 y before 1800 to ∼25 y during 1970-2005 and further decreases to ∼5 y by 2030-2045 in 95% of our simulations. The 2.25-m flood height is permanently exceeded by 2280-2300 for scenarios that include Antarctica’s potential partial collapse.

Concepts: Oceanography, Storm, New York City, Tropical cyclone, Antarctica, Flood, Storm surge, Weather hazards


In recent years, several extreme weather disasters have partially or completely damaged regional crop production. While detailed regional accounts of the effects of extreme weather disasters exist, the global scale effects of droughts, floods and extreme temperature on crop production are yet to be quantified. Here we estimate for the first time, to our knowledge, national cereal production losses across the globe resulting from reported extreme weather disasters during 1964-2007. We show that droughts and extreme heat significantly reduced national cereal production by 9-10%, whereas our analysis could not identify an effect from floods and extreme cold in the national data. Analysing the underlying processes, we find that production losses due to droughts were associated with a reduction in both harvested area and yields, whereas extreme heat mainly decreased cereal yields. Furthermore, the results highlight ~7% greater production damage from more recent droughts and 8-11% more damage in developed countries than in developing ones. Our findings may help to guide agricultural priorities in international disaster risk reduction and adaptation efforts.

Concepts: Weather, Temperature, Harvest, Disaster, Global warming, Development, Extreme weather, Weather hazards


Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey (NJ) on October 29, 2012. We studied the impact of this extreme weather event on the incidence of, and 30-day mortality from, cardiovascular (CV) events (CVEs), including myocardial infarctions (MI) and strokes, in NJ.

Concepts: Myocardial infarction, Weather, Storm, New York City, Tropical cyclone, New Jersey, Extreme weather, Weather hazards


Since the winter of 2013-2014, California has experienced its most severe drought in recorded history, causing statewide water stress, severe economic loss and an extraordinary increase in wildfires. Identifying the effects of global warming on regional water cycle extremes, such as the ongoing drought in California, remains a challenge. Here we analyse large-ensemble and multi-model simulations that project the future of water cycle extremes in California as well as to understand those associations that pertain to changing climate oscillations under global warming. Both intense drought and excessive flooding are projected to increase by at least 50% towards the end of the twenty-first century; this projected increase in water cycle extremes is associated with a strengthened relation to El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO)-in particular, extreme El Niño and La Niña events that modulate California’s climate not only through its warm and cold phases but also its precursor patterns.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Precipitation, Hydrology, Climate change, Global warming, Effects of global warming, Weather hazards


Extreme weather events can provide unique opportunities for testing models that predict the effect of climate change. Droughts of increasing severity have been predicted under numerous models, thus contemporary droughts may allow us to test these models prior to the onset of the more extreme effects predicted with a changing climate. In the third year of an ongoing severe drought, surveys failed to detect neonate endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizards in a subset of previously surveyed populations where we expected to see them. By conducting surveys at a large number of sites across the range of the species over a short time span, we were able to establish a strong positive correlation between winter precipitation and the presence of neonate leopard lizards over geographic space. Our results are consistent with those of numerous longitudinal studies and are in accordance with predictive climate change models. We suggest that scientists can take immediate advantage of droughts while they are still in progress to test patterns of occurrence in other drought-sensitive species and thus provide for more robust models of climate change effects on biodiversity.

Concepts: Future, Precipitation, Weather, Meteorology, Global warming, Extreme weather, Weather hazards, Crotaphytidae


A naturalistic investigation of New Jersey residents, both before and after they experienced Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, examined support for politicians committed or opposed to policies designed to combat climate change. At Time 1, before both hurricanes, participants showed negative implicit attitudes toward a green politician, but at Time 2, after the hurricanes, participants drawn from the same cohort showed a reversed automatic preference. Moreover, those who were significantly affected by Hurricane Sandy were especially likely to implicitly prefer the green politician, and implicit attitudes were the best predictor of voting after the storms, whereas explicit climate-change beliefs was the best predictor before the storms. In concert, the results suggest that direct experience with extreme weather can increase pro-environmentalism, and further support conceptualizing affective experiences as a source of implicit attitudes.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Climate change, Experience, Storm, Tropical cyclone, Extreme weather, Weather hazards


Climate change is expected to increase future abiotic stresses on ecosystems through extreme weather events leading to more extreme drought and rainfall incidences [Jentsch A, et al. (2007) Front Ecol Environ 5(7):365-374]. These fluctuations in precipitation may affect soil biota, soil processes [Evans ST, Wallenstein MD (2012) Biogeochemistry 109:101-116], and the proportion of exotics in invaded plant communities [Jiménez MA, et al. (2011) Ecol Lett 14:1277-1235]. However, little is known about legacy effects in soil on the performance of exotics and natives in invaded plant communities. Here we report that drought and rainfall effects on soil processes and biota affect the performance of exotics and natives in plant communities. We performed two mesocosm experiments. In the first experiment, soil without plants was exposed to drought and/or rainfall, which affected soil N availability. Then the initial soil moisture conditions were restored, and a mixed community of co-occurring natives and exotics was planted and exposed to drought during growth. A single stress before or during growth decreased the biomass of natives, but did not affect exotics. A second drought stress during plant growth resetted the exotic advantage, whereas native biomass was not further reduced. In the second experiment, soil inoculation revealed that drought and/or rainfall influenced soil biotic legacies, which promoted exotics but suppressed natives. Our results demonstrate that extreme weather events can cause legacy effects in soil biota, promoting exotics and suppressing natives in invaded plant communities, depending on the type, frequency, and timing of extreme events.

Concepts: Water, Precipitation, Weather, Affect, Ecosystem, Global warming, Extreme weather, Weather hazards


Phenomena such as cyclones, fronts and thunderstorms can cause extreme weather in various regions throughout the world. Although these phenomena have been examined in numerous studies, they have not all been systematically examined in combination with each other, including in relation to extreme precipitation and extreme winds throughout the world. Consequently, the combined influence of these phenomena represents a substantial gap in the current understanding of the causes of extreme weather events. Here we present a systematic analysis of cyclones, fronts and thunderstorms in combination with each other, as represented by seven different types of storm combinations. Our results highlight the storm combinations that most frequently cause extreme weather in various regions of the world. The highest risk of extreme precipitation and extreme wind speeds is found to be associated with a triple storm type characterized by concurrent cyclone, front and thunderstorm occurrences. Our findings reveal new insight on the relationships between cyclones, fronts and thunderstorms and clearly demonstrate the importance of concurrent phenomena in causing extreme weather.

Concepts: Precipitation, Storm, Tropical cyclone, Tornado, Wind, Extreme weather, Severe weather, Weather hazards


Tropical cyclone track prediction is steadily improving, while storm intensity prediction has seen little progress in the last quarter century. Important physics are not yet well understood and implemented in tropical cyclone forecast models. Missing and unresolved physics, especially at the air-sea interface, are among the factors limiting storm predictions. In a laboratory experiment and coordinated numerical simulation, conducted in this work, the microstructure of the air-water interface under hurricane force wind resembled Kelvin-Helmholtz shear instability between fluids with a large density difference. Supported by these observations, we bring forth the concept that the resulting two-phase environment suppresses short gravity-capillary waves and alters the aerodynamic properties of the sea surface. The unified wave-form and two-phase parameterization model shows the well-known increase of the drag coefficient (Cd) with wind speed, up to ~30 ms(-1). Around 60 ms(-1), the new parameterization predicts a local peak of Ck/Cd, under constant enthalpy exchange coefficient Ck. This peak may explain rapid intensification of some storms to major tropical cyclones and the previously reported local peak of lifetime maximum intensity (bimodal distribution) in the best-track records. The bimodal distribution of maximum lifetime intensity, however, can also be explained by environmental parameters of tropical cyclones alone.

Concepts: Precipitation, Storm, Tropical cyclone, Tornado, Cyclone, Wind, Beaufort scale, Weather hazards


The frequency and intensity of hurricanes are increasing globally, and anthropogenic modifications in cities have created systems that may be particularly vulnerable to their negative effects. Organisms living in cities are exposed to variable levels of chronic environmental stress. However, whether chronic stress ameliorates or exacerbates the negative effects of hurricanes remains an open question. Here, we consider two hypotheses about the simultaneous consequences of acute disturbances from hurricanes and chronic stress from urbanization for the structure of urban arthropod communities. The tipping point hypothesis posits that organisms living in high stress habitats are less resilient than those in low stress habitats because they are living near the limits of their environmental tolerances; while the disturbance tolerance hypothesis posits that high stress habitats host organisms pre-adapted for coping with disturbance, making them more resilient to the effects of storms. We used a before-after-control-impact design in the street medians and city parks of Manhattan (New York City, New York, USA) to compare arthropod communities before and after Super Storm Sandy in sites that were flooded and unflooded during the storm. Our evidence supported the disturbance tolerance hypothesis. Significant compositional differences between street medians and city parks before the storm disappeared after the storm; similarly, unflooded city parks had significantly different arthropod composition while flooded sites were indistinguishable. These differences were driven by reduced occurrences and abundances of arthropods in city parks. Finally, those arthropod groups that were most tolerant to urban stress were also the most tolerant to flooding. Our results suggest that the species that survive in high stress environments are likely to be the ones that thrive in response to acute disturbance. As storms become increasingly common and extreme, this juxtaposition in responses to storm-associated disturbance may lead to diversity loss in cities, potentially leading entire urban landscapes to mirror the reduced diversity of street medians.

Concepts: Precipitation, City, Storm, Thunderstorm, New York City, Tropical cyclone, Storm surge, Weather hazards