Nov 5, 2015

Extreme Heat Defines Climate Change

by
Brian Kahn
,
Climate Central

All eight papers dealing with extreme heat events in this year’s Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society’s attribution report show a clear climate change signal that made them more likely, more hot or both.

...

"Global warming is the most obvious, well-documented effect of climate change,” Stephanie Herring, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and organizer of this year’s attribution issue, said. “As a result, the signal is very strong so we can more easily detect it amongst noise of natural variability compared to other types of extreme events."

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“The underlying processes that relate climate change to heat wave intensity and frequency are fairly straightforward to understand: if you increase the average temperature by even a modest amount, then it turns out that you dramatically increase the area under the extreme positive ‘tail’ of the distribution,” Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State who wasn’t involved in any of the new studies, said in an email.

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The findings could be moving from academia to the public discourse. The new findings show that it isn’t a question of if climate change is influencing extreme heat, it’s basically a question of how much of an influence it has on a particular event.

“Heat is the one event that is most ready for the science community to have a discussion of whether or not every heat attribution assessment necessarily needs to go through the peer review process,” Herring said