Social Philosophy

How will extreme weather events alter due to climate change?

Professor David M. Schultz
Wednesday, 26 May 2021 - 6:30pm


Headlines from newspapers and websites scream out the soundbite that anthropogenic climate change is causing more extreme weather:

• ‘Climate change means more extreme weather – here’s what the UK can expect if emissions keep increasing.’

• ‘Why extreme weather is the new normal.’

• ‘Man-made climate change had role in some of 2015’s extreme weather.’

For better or worse the potential and deadly serious effects of anthropogenic climate change are often communicated through the soundbite. This has become popular with scientists and the media but neglects important caveats. What do we mean by ‘extreme weather’? Where does this extreme weather occur on Earth? Will all types of extreme weather be affected equally? Have we already seen changes in extreme weather? Is anthropogenic climate change responsible? How will these changes affect society?

Thus, the seemingly simple question of how does climate change affect extreme weather becomes much more complicated upon further reflection. No doubt these questions may be obscured or even unasked in the modern media landscape, but that does not mean that they aren’t important questions to ask.

In this lecture, Professor David Schutlz will present the science behind how different extreme weather events may – or may not – change in the future as the global climate warms. He will present results from studies on tropical cyclones and tornadoes and will consider the factors that have affected, and will affect, their changes in intensity, frequency, and spatial distribution on Earth. Professor Schultz will also discuss the relatively recent approach called climate-change attribution - where the role of anthropogenic climate change in individual extreme weather events can be quantitatively addressed.

By the end of the lecture, Professor Schultz hopes to give the audience the tools to evaluate media stories about climate change and extreme weather with a critical eye.


About the speaker

David Schultz is Professor of Synoptic Meteorology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director of the Centre for Crisis Studies and Mitigation - both at the University of Manchester.  His research interests include the physical processes that lead to hazardous weather events such as heavy rain, tornadoes, snowstorms, windstorms and aircraft turbulence.  He collaborates with other research groups on campus to help plan for resilient infrastructure due to climate change and to study the interaction between weather and human health, most recently the effect of weather on chronic pain.  He has published over 175 peer-reviewed journal articles and since 2008 has served as the Chief Editor of Monthly Weather Review, the oldest continuously running meteorological journal in the world. 

He was elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, is winner of multiple teaching awards and is teacher to thousands of students in the online Coursera course Our Earth: Its Climate, History and Processes.  He is author of Eloquent Science: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker and Atmospheric Scientist and co-author of the Geological Society of London’s 2020 statement What the Geological Record Tells Us About Our Present and Future Climate.



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Event image: photograph of ‘cloud to ground’ lightning by NOAA on Unsplash