IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

TS.4.4 The impact of altered extremes

Impacts are very likely to increase due to increased frequencies and intensities of extreme weather events.

Since the IPCC Third Assessment, confidence has increased that some weather events and extremes will become more frequent, more widespread or more intense during the 21st century; and more is known about the potential effects of such changes. These are summarised in Table TS.5.

Table TS.5. Examples of possible impacts of climate change due to changes in extreme weather and climate events, based on projections to the mid- to late 21st century. These do not take into account any changes or developments in adaptive capacity. Examples of all entries are to be found in chapters in the full Assessment (see sources). The first two columns of this table (shaded yellow) are taken directly from the Working Group I Fourth Assessment (Table SPM.2). The likelihood estimates in column 2 relate to the phenomena listed in column 1. The direction of trend and likelihood of phenomena are for SRES projections of climate change.

Phenomenona and direction of trend Likelihood of future trends based on projections for 21st century using SRES scenarios  Examples of major projected impacts by sector 
Agriculture, forestry and ecosystems  Water resources Human health Industry, settlements and society 
Over most land areas, warmer and fewer cold days and nights, warmer and more frequent hot days and nights  Virtually certainb Increased yields in colder environments; decreased yields in warmer environments; increased insect outbreaks [5.8.1, 4.4.5Effects on water resources relying on snow melt; effects on some water supply [3.4.1, 3.5.1Reduced human mortality from decreased cold exposure [8.4.1, T8.3Reduced energy demand for heating; increased demand for cooling; declining air quality in cities; reduced disruption to transport due to snow, ice; effects on winter tourism [7.4.2, 14.4.8, 15.7.1
Warm spells/ heatwaves. Frequency increases over most land areas Very likely Reduced yields in warmer regions due to heat stress; wildfire danger increase [5.8.1, 5.4.5, 4.4.3, 4.4.4Increased water demand; water quality problems, e.g., algal blooms [3.4.2, 3.5.1, 3.4.4Increased risk of heat-related mortality, especially for the elderly, chronically sick, very young and socially isolated [8.4.2, T8.3, 8.4.1Reduction in quality of life for people in warm areas without appropriate housing; impacts on elderly, very young and poor [7.4.2, 8.2.1
Heavy precipitation events. Frequency increases over most areas Very likely Damage to crops; soil erosion, inability to cultivate land due to waterlogging of soils [5.4.2Adverse effects on quality of surface and groundwater; contamination of water supply; water stress may be relieved [3.4.4Increased risk of deaths, injuries, infectious, respiratory and skin diseases [8.2.2, 11.4.11Disruption of settlements, commerce, transport and societies due to flooding; pressures on urban and rural infrastructures; loss of property [T7.4, 7.4.2
Area affected by drought increases Likely Land degradation, lower yields/crop damage and failure; increased livestock deaths; increased risk of wildfire [5.8.1, 5.4, 4.4.4More widespread water stress [3.5.1Increased risk of food and water shortage; increased risk of malnutrition; increased risk of water- and food-borne diseases [5.4.7, 8.2.3, 8.2.5Water shortages for settlements, industry and societies; reduced hydropower generation potentials; potential for population migration [T7.4, 7.4, 7.1.3
Intense tropical cyclone activity increases  Likely Damage to crops; windthrow (uprooting) of trees; damage to coral reefs [5.4.5, 16.4.3Power outages cause disruption of public water supply [7.4.2Increased risk of deaths, injuries, water- and food-borne diseases; post-traumatic stress disorders [8.2.2, 8.4.2, 16.4.5Disruption by flood and high winds; withdrawal of risk coverage in vulnerable areas by private insurers, potential for population migrations, loss of property [7.4.1, 7.4.2, 7.1.3
Increased incidence of extreme high sea level (excludes tsunamis)c Likelyd Salinisation of irrigation water, estuaries and freshwater systems [3.4.2, 3.4.4, 10.4.2Decreased freshwater availability due to salt-water intrusion [3.4.2, 3.4.4Increased risk of deaths and injuries by drowning in floods; migration-related health effects [6.4.2, 8.2.2, 8.4.2Costs of coastal protection versus costs of land-use relocation; potential for movement of populations and infrastructure; also see tropical cyclones above [7.4.2

a See WGI AR4 Table 3.7 for further details regarding definitions.

b Warming of the most extreme days and nights each year.

c Extreme high sea level depends on average sea level and on regional weather systems. It is defined as the highest 1% of hourly values of observed sea level at a station for a given reference period.

d In all scenarios, the projected global average sea level at 2100 is higher than in the reference period [WGI AR4 10.6]. The effect of changes in regional weather systems on sea-level extremes has not been assessed.