Publication Date November 5, 2015 | Climate Central

Extreme Heat Defines Climate Change

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."


“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.


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