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Climate extremes in the United States: recent research by physical geographers

Yarnal, Brent

Article written by David Retchless, Nathan Frey, Chongming Wang, Li-San Hung, and 2008 DPDF Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change codirector Brent Yarnal in Physical Geography.

This paper reports our review of research on domestic climate extremes conducted by US physical geographers over the past 15 years. Sections cover extremes in wind, precipitation, lightning, and temperature, as well as derivative climate extremes (droughts, floods, and storm surges). Themes considered include: the spatial and temporal distribution of the climate extreme; its implications for our understanding of the physical processes that produce it; the spatial and temporal distributions of the extreme’s economic and human costs; lessons for assessment, policy, and management; and scale. We conclude that most of the works reviewed inadequately address the human basis of vulnerability to climate extremes, and encourage physical geographers to work with colleagues from the other subfields of geography and the social sciences to develop the holistic understanding of vulnerability needed to effectively adapt to the more extreme climate projected under climate change.

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