Usually the problem of climate change is solely described as the increase in temperature since the beginning of the industrialization of the Northern Hemisphere. People discuss the impact of rising temperatures on the Arctic, but how does climate change affect us on a regional scale, where we actually live?
Professor Dick Peltier, global climate change researcher in the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto, is very interested in the impact of climate change on water resources. In Ontario where climate is moderated to a degree by the presence of the Great Lakes, the most severe impact of the global warming process is going to be found in extreme events. For instance, we will see a dramatic increase in periods of intense precipitation like the one that flooded Toronto in 2013. This was a hugely important extreme precipitation event which in the past would have happened once every 30, 40, or 50 years. By Prof. Peltier’s calculations, the timescale for these events will start being compressed by a factor of 2, making these events appear every 25 years. This means we are looking at a future where extreme precipitation events, events of extreme warmth and drought conditions will be more frequent and more severe.
One of the biggest problems with these predictions though has to do with big data. The amount of data required to generate these models and make predictions is on the hundreds of terabytes level, which requires large storage capacity and computers with extremely fast processing speeds. Essentially, the problem of climate change projection is one that lives or dies on the basis of our ability to generate and analyse very large amounts of data.