Global extreme events - Cold

Reference - IPCC AR5 WG1

Extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods impact all levels of society and can lead to large economic costs, population displacement and loss of life. This page outlines the latest research on whether we’re experiencing more extreme cold events globally, whether they’re due to climate change and what we can expect in the future.

Cold events

Are cold events becoming less frequent across the globe?

IPCC AR5 WG1 stated it is very likely there are now fewer cold days and nights. There is also very high confidence that snow cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased by about 1.6% per decade over March and April between 1967 and 2012.

Are these changes due to human activity?

The majority of studies that have looked at cold events show that human activity have made them less likely. They also suggest that without climate change to date these events would have been colder with potentially more impacts.

For example the cold 2013/14 winter in the Midwestern USA was 20–100 times less likely to occur when it did compared to in the 1880s.

Will cold events continue to be less frequent in future?

IPCC AR5 WG1 said it was virtually certain (>99% probability) that, in most places, there will be fewer cold temperature extremes as global mean temper­atures increase.


Related Pages

Weather extremes and climate change

Global extreme events - Heatwaves

Global extreme events - Heavy rainfall

Global extreme events - Drought

Global extreme events - Tropical storms

UK extreme events - Heatwaves

UK extreme events - Heavy rainfall and floods

UK extreme events – Drought

UK extreme events - Cold

UK extreme events - Wind storms