What climate change attribution can tell us about extreme weather

by Carbon Brief

Dr Peter Stott, head of the Climate Monitoring and Attribution team at the Met Office, discusses the science of climate attribution

... Climate change attribution is the science of determining the causes of unusual climate trends and climate-related events, and it’s an area of research that I’ve focused on throughout my career as a climate scientist at the Met Office.

Attribution studies can help us understand how humans are influencing the climate. Such studies have identified the ‘fingerprints’ of change due to human influence on climate in observed records of temperature, rainfall, and other climate parameters...

Unusual extremes have always happened in our variable climate. It can be all too easy to put the entire blame of catastrophic weather-related disasters onto human-caused climate change or onto natural climate variability, but such misattribution can easily lead to bad policymaking around how to adapt to climate change.

To do this, we want to compare what actually happened with what might have happened in a world without anthropogenic climate change. The only way to determine how the world could have evolved without anthropogenic climate change is to use a climate model to simulate the conditions we could have experienced in its absence ...