Climate Change Responsible for Individual Natural Disasters

Scientists developed a new study to indicate that climate change is to blame for individual natural disasters. Myles Allen is a climate expert at the University of Oxford. Starting from 2003, he started monitoring the rising waters of the River Thames, near his house, in the United Kingdom. At that time, a representative of the United Kingdom’s Met Office indicated that global warming boosted the flooding event.

How it all started

Back then, the Thames River Basin experienced the greatest rainfall ever. At the beginning of 2014, in some parts of the river, the flow was the highest it had been since 1947. However, despite all the floods and the proofs, the United Kingdom’s Met Office argued that the events couldn’t have been triggered by past greenhouse gas emissions.

The new study was recently published in the Nature magazine. Climate change has surely impacted, and it is still affecting weather. However, scientists were never able to establish its specific influence on individual natural disasters. There are a lot of other many factors which affect weather patterns, including natural climate variations.

When the flooding incident happened in 2003, specialists argued that they cannot blame a single weather event on climate change. However, Allen’s opinion is different. He says that it is not impossible to attribute extreme weather events to climate change. He knew that if science were able to prove this, people would finally be able to blame greenhouse gas emitters for individual natural disasters.

Noah Diffenbaugh is a Stanford University climate scientists and attribution expert. Lately, he stated that the scientific community does not usually take care of attributing individual weather events to climate change. He also argues that scientists find out something new about the connection between climate change and weather events every week.

Climate change has influenced a lot of weather events and natural disasters, ranging from the California drought to the Russian heat wave in 2010. The studies which researchers have published over the years have analyzed the extent to which global warming has influenced the incidence of weather events.

The new implications

Now, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society issues a new report. Every year, they analyze the impact of climate change on the extreme events from the previous year. Last year, the National Academy of Sciences had developed a detailed report. They have evaluated the current state of the science, offering recommendations for its improvement.

Scientists indicate that attribution studies could come in handy in lawsuits brought against industries, companies and even governments. These studies can help redefine climate adaptation policies in different countries or even in the whole world.

Allen argues that many policymakers and the wide public tend to not trust the 100-year forecasts. Generally, they are more eager to find out what is happening right now and why. In 2005, at about two years after the flood, Allen had published a new paper in Nature. The new study would turn extreme event attribution from an impossibility into a totally new field.

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Back in 2004, Allen together with Daithi Stone and Peter Storr developed a new report. Peter Storr was working for the Met Office while Daithi Stone was one of Allen’s Oxford colleagues. Their study was the first extreme event attribution study in the world. They have analyzed the contribution of global warming to a European heat wave from 2003. That event has determined tens of thousands of deaths all over the continent.

A flooded area, affecting trees and houses

Climate models made possible the simulation of more weather events

Their study has concluded that human-made climate change doubled the risk of a heat wave. Diffenbaugh indicates that climate change attribution science had previously existed in different forms. Most of the studied had investigated the connection between long-term changes in climate elements and human activity until 2004. Recently, researchers had tried to figure out how human-made climate change might influence weather patterns in the long term.

The revolutionary paper relied on the use of a climate model. In this way, researchers were able to compare simulations accounting for global warming with scenarios in which human-made climate change did not exist. Researchers have identified that the influence of global warming has doubled the risk of an individual natural disasters such as a heat wave.

Other scientists who have analyzed this paper argued that the results were pretty obvious. That was the moment when scientists’ interest in extreme event attribution has increased. The National Academy of Sciences report from 2017 indicates that in 4 years, namely between 2012 and 2015, the number of studies has raised from 6 to 32.

Friederike Otto is an attribution expert at the University of Oxford. She indicates that the progression of technology and the improvements in climate models boosted the development of more studies. She also indicates that extreme weather events are rare. Therefore, climate models need to precisely illustrate the physical factors that trigger the occurrence of these extremes in order to crop up one in a simulation. Furthermore, researchers should be able to run them again and again.

Individual natural disasters due to climate change

The improvement and development of sets of climate models have reinforced researchers’ ability to simulate weather events under new conditions. Otto argues that it is not the philosophy which changed, but the technology.

Back in 2010, a harsh heat wave has affected Russia, triggering temperatures in certain places to surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Some estimates indicate that the extreme temperatures affected the entire population, triggering more than 50,000 deaths. In this case, two different studies tried to quantify the influence of climate change on that particular event. Surprisingly, the studies revealed different conclusions.

One of the papers indicated that the heat wave appeared as a product of natural climate variations. The other one indicated that human-made global warming was the main factor.

Summing up

All these climate change studies prove how human-made activities trigger dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, influencing weather events. Hence, individual natural disasters are more severe and have a higher incidence in the presence of climate change effects. The high temperatures triggered by greenhouse gas emissions affect natural weather patterns. In this way, the number of heat waves and floods increases.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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