Jul 26, 2017

Attribution of Weather and Climate Events

Friederike E.L. Otto
Annual Review of Environment and Resources
  • States that the attribution of extreme weather and climate events has emerged from a theoretical possibility into a subfield of climate science in its own right, providing scientific evidence on the role of anthropogenic climate change in individual extreme weather events, on a regular basis and using a range of approaches
  • Reviews different approaches and thus different framings of the attribution question that lead to very different assessments of the role of human-induced climate change
  • States that although there is no right or wrong approach, the community is currently debating about the appropriate methodologies for addressing various stakeholder needs and scientific limitations
  • Concludes that the main challenges to face in the coming years include tackling these limitations with more thorough model evaluation and meaningful bias corrections as well as going beyond the meteorological hazard and attributing the full impacts of extreme weather

"An event definition is always a trade-off between what happened in the real world, what has been observed, and what can reliably be simulated in a climate model."

"With the development of different methodologies and also different conceptual approaches over the past few years, extreme event attribution has emerged as a subfield of climate science with its own growing community, which still mainly consists of the contributing and lead authors of Chapter 10 of the IPCC AR5 WG1 report; however, it includes increasingly scientists from other areas and parts of the world that have not been represented previously."

"Presumably the largest challenge for the event attribution community is, however, the attribution of the impacts of meteorological extreme events and to foster a close collaboration with the disaster risk reduction community . . . examples of attributing impacts rather than meteorological events are rare and comprehensive methodological approaches are currently lacking, although their importance has been mentioned as early as 2005."