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Does climate change increase the odds of extreme weather events? (+video)

In a new report, scientists say yes; climate change pushes normal warming effects to extremes. For example, a heat wave in Texas is now 20 times more likely than it was 50 years ago.

Tom Karl, the head of NOAA's Climate office, says man-made warming was a factor in Texas because the state's drought intensity fell too far outside historic patterns of dryness and rain.
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Climate change increased the odds for the kind of extreme weather that prevailed in 2011, a year that saw severe drought in Texas, unusual heat in England and was one of the 15 warmest years on record, scientists reported on Tuesday.

Overall, 2011 was a year of extreme events - from historic droughts in East Africa, northern Mexico and the southern United States to an above-average cyclone season in the North Atlantic and the end of Australia's wettest two-year period ever, scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United Kingdom's Met Office said.

In the 22nd annual "State of the Climate" report, experts also found the Arctic was warming about twice as fast as the rest of the planet, on average, with Arctic sea ice shrinking to its second-smallest recorded size.

Heat-trapping greenhouse gas concentrations - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide among others - continued to rise last year, and the global average atmospheric concentration for carbon dioxide went over 390 parts per million for the first time, an increase of 2.1 ppm in 2010.


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