WUOMFM

Linking extreme weather events to our changing climate

Apr 27, 2017

Any time there’s a heat wave, or a drought or a big flood, scientists like Noah Diffenbaugh get a lot of calls.

“We are as scientists being asked whether or not global warming has played a role in individual extreme weather events,” he says.

Diffenbaugh is a professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. He says for a long time, climate scientists would avoid tying individual weather events to global warming. And in recent years, we've tended to hear scientists say that climate change increases the probability of more extreme events.

But he says now, there’s a lot of research that’s linking individual storms, or heat waves, or droughts to global warming.

“What is new in this paper we have out this week is we’ve taken a look across the globe at multiple different kinds of extreme events: hot, wet, dry,” he explains.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

And they looked at whether specific record-setting events were influenced by the global warming that’s already happened.

“What we find is that the hottest events have been made more likely by global warming at more than 80% of the area we’ve been able to look at,” he says.

He says climate change has increased the odds for the wettest and driest events in about half the places they looked.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.