Myth 1 Future Climate Change Will Be Smooth and Gradual

The history of climate reveals that climate change occurs in fits and starts, with abrupt and sometimes dramatic changes rather than gradually over time.1 An example of contemporary abrupt change is evident in the frequency of North Atlantic tropical storms (figure 3-1). This basic feature of abrupt change implies that surprising changes are likely to occur in the future, even if average climate change is projected accurately.2

Figure 3-1. Tropical Hurricane Frequency in the North Atlantic0

Figure 3-1. Tropical Hurricane Frequency in the North Atlantic0

Source: Atlantic Hurricane Database Re-analysis Project (www.aoml.noaa.gove/hrd/data_sub 're_anal .html).

a. The ten-year running average of annual frequency shows a dramatic and abrupt increase, 40 percent, above the previous maximum observed in the mid-1950s, previously considered extreme.

Source: Atlantic Hurricane Database Re-analysis Project (www.aoml.noaa.gove/hrd/data_sub 're_anal .html).

a. The ten-year running average of annual frequency shows a dramatic and abrupt increase, 40 percent, above the previous maximum observed in the mid-1950s, previously considered extreme.

Thus, a projection of 1 meter (3.3 feet) of sea level rise over one century could turn out to be correct, but it could occur in several quick pulses with relatively static periods in between. This type of change is more difficult to prepare for than gradual change, as large-scale public works projects intended to adapt to such a change are likely to require several decades to

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