Jul 1, 2012

Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 from a Climate Perspective

Peterson, Stott, and Herring
American Meteorological Society, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
  • Uses a variety of methodologies to explain six extreme events of the previous year from a climate perspective
  • States that attribution of extreme events shortly after their occurrence stretches the current state-of-the art of climate change assessment

  • States that calculating how the odds of a particular extreme event have changed provides a means of quantifying the influence of climate change on the event

  • Illustrates some approaches to answering questions about the role of human factors, and the relative role of different natural factors, for six specific extreme weather or climate events of 2011

  • Does not find the signal of climate change for every event

    • Finds that the rainfall associated with the devastating Thailand floods can be explained by climate variability

  • Finds that long-term warming played a part in the others
    • Finds that while La Niña contributed to the failure of the rains in the Horn of Africa, an increased frequency of such droughts there was linked to warming in the Western Pacific– Indian Ocean warm pool
    • Finds that Europe's record warm temperatures would probably not have been as unusual if the high temperatures had been caused only by the atmospheric flow regime without any long-term warming
    • Finds that the heatwave that affected Texas has become distinctly more likely than 40 years ago
    • Finds that the likelihood of very warm November temperatures in the UK has increased substantially since the 1960s
  • Shows that the cold UK winter of 2010/2011 has become about half as likely as a result of human influence on climate, illustrating that some extreme events are becoming less likely due to climate change