Dec 13, 2017

2016’s Record Heat Not Possible Without Global Warming, Study Says

by
Nicholas Kusnetz
,
InsideClimate News
"These are not just new odds. These are new weather extremes that are made possible by a new climate," said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty
"These are not just new odds. These are new weather extremes that are made possible by a new climate," said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty

The devastating heat wave that hit Asia in 2016 and the unprecedented warmth of ocean waters off of Alaska that year had something in common: neither would have been possible without the excess carbon dioxide that humans have pumped into the atmosphere over the past century, according to new research.

That year was the warmest on record globally, and that extreme also would have been impossible without climate change, the report said.

The findings marked an ominous first for the American Meteorological Society's annual report on the role of climate change in extreme weather events, which was released Wednesday. While five previous editions included research showing that climate change made dozens of heat waves, droughts and storms more likely or more severe, none had determined that the events could not have occurred under "natural" conditions.

"The conversation needs to change," Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, said at a press conference Wednesday. "These are not just new odds. These are new weather extremes that are made possible by a new climate."

The report included 27 peer-reviewed studies that examined extreme weather events around the globe in 2016. All but six found that climate change had played a role. El Niño, the periodic warming of Pacific waters, also contributed to extreme weather that year.

Overall, the studies found that human-caused warming had increased the risk of heat waves, heavy precipitation, frost, drought, marine heat, wildfires and coral bleaching across five continents, while making cold weather less likely in China. Among the events for which no climate link was found was a winter storm in the eastern U.S., a drought in Brazil and marine heat in the eastern Pacific.