A week after heat waves toppled records across Europe late last month, scientists were ready to declare that climate change almost certainly drove the deadly hot stretch.
On August 2, while the same heat wave was turning Greenland’s ice sheets into slush, World Weather Attribution reported that decades of greenhouse-gas emissions had raised the odds of such extreme weather by a factor of as much as 100 in some regions.
“Over France and the Netherlands, such temperatures would have had extremely little chance to occur without human influence on climate,” concluded the group, a kind of international rapid-response team set up to assess the potential role of climate change in extreme weather events that have recently occurred.
Just a few years ago, climate scientists’ standard response to questions about the cause of specific storms, floods, and droughts was, as the National Academies of Sciences noted in a 2016 paper, basically a shrug: “We cannot attribute any single event to climate change.”
But thanks to better climate models, swelling libraries of earlier analyses, and our improving understanding of these systems, researchers can now often say with virtual certainty that climate change made a particular event more likely or more severe. [Continue reading…]