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Georgia Climate Project: Finding the Signal in the Noise

As you know, there is a lot of variability in climate from one year to the next and even sometimes from one month to the next. How do you know if recent extremes in temperature, precipitation or other climate variables are just a manifestation of that natural variability or if they are a sign of real trends in the climate over time? Climate scientists have extensive methods of trying to tease out the signal of climate change from the natural noise of a variable climate system, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The Georgia Climate Project’s question this week addresses the problems of trying to find out what changes are real trends and what are just natural variability. Remember, you can see all the questions at

2. How can signals of climate change be identified given Georgia’s exposure to a full spectrum of weather hazards?

Why this question is important: In concert with accelerated warming, Georgia and the Southeastern USA are projected to experience more intense heat waves and droughts, more frequent and extreme flooding (Moore et al. 2014;), and stronger hurricanes (Ingram et al. 2013). Georgia, like much of the Southeast USA, experiences the full range of extreme weather events (Emrich and Cutter 2011), so regional vulnerabilities to specific types of events need to be identified. Understanding how particular types of climate change events manifest is necessary to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies and investments to deal with risks that society and institutions face due to changing exposure to weather hazards (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2016). In particular, Georgia’s coastline represents an area of compound risk from climate impacts, given the high level of certainty that sea levels will rise and the dramatically increased levels of risks associated with storm surges in coming decades (Carter et al. 2014).