Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Extreme weather events sometimes attributable to climate change

Extreme weather events attributable to climate change?
(Image Robert A. Rohde)
To what extent can extreme weather events be attributed to climate change? This is the question analysed by Peter A. Stott et al. in their article “The attribution of weather and climate-related events”. The article is part of the book “Climate Science for Serving Society - Research, Modeling and Prediction Priorities” (Editors: Ghassem R. Asrar and James W. Hurrell; ISBN: 978-94-007-6691-4 (Print) 978-94-007-6692-1 (eBook); Springer 2013). 

The authors make a range of subtle statements, like the following: Climate change has increased the likelihood of certain extreme weather events, reduced the likelihood of others and left the likelihood of certain others unchanged. The attribution of a certain extreme weather event to climate change can be possible. However, it must be done by “carefully calibrated physically based assessments of observed weather and climate-related events”. Also the authors hold that “in most cases it is not possible to determine that the weather or climate-related event in question could only have happened because of a particular climate-driver”. But it is possible to calculate an increase of likelihood. The authors mention a few cases where attribution to climate change was possible, amongst them the Moscow heatwave already referred to on this blog.

Related: the World Climate Research Programme report on Attribution of extreme weather events to climate change

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