Over 160 people are dead and many more are reported missing after deadly floods swept large parts of western Germany this week. Such devastating floods have not been seen in decades. Meteorologists warn, however, that extreme weather events are likely to become much more familiar in future, DW reports.
"Extreme rainfall is going to become more frequent in a warmer world," Andreas Fink from the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research at Karlsruhe told.
One reason for this is that global warming is causing the atmosphere to change: "For every increase in temperature of one degree Celsius, the atmosphere can absorb about 7% more moisture. The additional moisture caused by global warming will lead to higher amounts of precipitation in the long term, especially when there is heavy rainfall."
There is a consensus among scientists about thermodynamic processes, the increasingly warm atmosphere, and its increased capacity for moisture. However, there is another factor that some experts believe is probably contributing to extreme weather events such as the floods in Europe this week and the recent heatwave on the west coast of the US and Canada, but this has yet to be determined conclusively.
Another concern is that tides are predicted to be higher and lower than usual in the coming decade because of an irregularity of the moon's orbit. Though this occurs every 18 years, by the 2030s sea levels might have risen to such an extent that it could be disastrous.
On its website, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) explains: "In half of the Moon's 18.6-year cycle, Earth's regular daily tides are suppressed: High tides are lower than normal, and low tides are higher than normal. In the other half of the cycle, tides are amplified: High tides get higher, and low tides get lower. Global sea level rise pushes high tides in only one direction — higher. So half of the 18.6-year lunar cycle counteracts the effect of sea level rise on high tides, and the other half increases the effect."
Researchers predict long-lasting floods with catastrophic consequences. Combined with the growing number of other extreme weather events caused by climate change, this is particularly troubling.