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Climate and Environment

Santiago Saez Moreno
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piqer: Santiago Saez Moreno
Friday, 16 November 2018

Extreme Weather Event Attribution 101

As this year is almost drawing to an end, we can already say it has been a year of summer extremes. Wildfires in California; droughts in Australia, Central America and South Africa; flash floods in Southern Europe and Eastern Africa; heatwaves in the whole Northern Hemisphere, the Beast from the East in the UK and Ireland, you name it. 

It has also been a remarkable year for climate change awareness and research, and, in a few weeks, politicians will have a chance to turn it into a diplomatic milestone as well. But still, some of the same questions around climate remain, at least amongst the public. One of them is, crucially, whether we can attribute single weather events to climate change.

The short answer is sometimes. This short podcast (only 12 minutes) goes over the basics of climate attribution science, a young but fast-growing body of knowledge. 

"Can a single, particular extreme weather event be attributed to climate change? Ten years ago, the answer to this question was a solid no. Such extreme events like heatwaves and major storms have happened throughout history, so climate scientists were hesitant to blame climate change, and especially human-induced climate change for any single event."

I have to say I almost hit stop a couple minutes into the podcast, because the opening commercial was not my cup of tea, but now I'm happy I didn't. This is a very good introduction to climate science attribution, explained with accuracy but in simple terms. In less than 15 minutes, listeners with little or no prior knowledge of the topic will understand why heatwaves are easier to attribute than, for example, tornados.

Attribution is a very important part of climate science, and one that can make a difference in the public perception of climate change, so I find this kind of journalism important and relevant. Have a listen and tell me what you think!

Extreme Weather Event Attribution 101
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