What role does climate change play in extreme weather?
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Fluctuations in weather happen all the time. But sometimes, those fluctuations can get extreme, making disasters like hurricanes and heatwaves more intense. What role does climate change play in extreme weather?
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Extreme weather is on the rise. A recent study found that worldwide, there were almost two and half times more extreme weather events in the first decade of this century than in the 1980s. To tease out the relationship between climate change and extreme weather, scientists use something called attribution science. This technique breaks down how much climate change influenced the event versus normal variations in weather. To do this successfully, researchers use climate models. They’re basically computer programs that simulate how the Earth’s climate will change over time. Essentially, 2 models are created. Model 1 — the world without humans burning fossil fuels. And model 2, a world like ours now, where we do burn fossil fuels.
In general, climate change models can’t tell us if climate change is the cause of any particular extreme weather event, but they do indicate that climate change is making those events more severe. Climate change is causing higher sea levels and warmer waters, and that’s leading to stronger hurricanes and heavier rainfall. Going forward, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that if climate change continues at its current rate, extreme weather will only get more extreme.
What is extreme weather?
Extreme weather is when a weather event is significantly different from the average or usual weather pattern.
What is climate change?
A change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.
What is climate attribution science?
The effort to scientifically demonstrate which mechanisms are responsible for observed changes in the Earth’s climate.
Natural Disasters, Armed Conflict, and Public Health
Liability for Climate Change
Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming
How We Use Climate Models
National Climate Change Assessment Report
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