In DepthClimate Science

Efforts to link climate change to severe weather gain ground

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Science  18 Mar 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6279, pp. 1249-1250
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6279.1249

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Scientists are tying climate change to individual cases of extreme weather with increasing confidence and speed. Although people have long said it's impossible to blame climate change for any single weather event, that's no longer the case, according to a report issued 11 March by a panel of scientists for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Computer models of the climate, paired with historic weather records, are now being used to estimate whether the odds of a particular event—such as a heat wave—are higher in a world with current greenhouse gas levels. The panel said heat waves and cold snaps are producing the most reliable studies, whereas droughts and severe rainstorms can be examined with some confidence. Hurricanes and tornadoes, however, continue to elude such analyses. This emerging science of event attribution could have legal and diplomatic implications, as nations and people harmed by such episodes consider seeking compensation from greenhouse gas polluters for damage caused by extreme weather.