Last week, the British journal Nature Climate Change published study findings linking anthropogenic warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels and atmospheric release of carbon dioxide with weather events. Climate change has caused about 75% of all hot-temperature extremes worldwide in the past 100 years. Climate change has also caused about 18% of heavy rainfall.
The study does not arrive at this conclusion about climate and weather from just a couple of sources. The authors used 25 climate models to test their theories. The work covers only extreme heat and precipitation, lead author Erich M. Fischer, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich university told USA Today:
“We do not look at droughts like the one in California or tropical cyclones (hurricanes). In fact, we argue that not all kinds of weather necessarily become more extreme…. [However, these models] agree remarkably well on the change in heavy rainfall and hot extremes at the global scale.”
Many who have been following the sciences of climate and weather find the study results sound and realistic, even unsurprising. One critic, Kevin Trenberth, chief of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, has reportedly differed with the study’s heavy reliance on models, especially in considering precipitation, despite the high number of analyses run. However, the conclusions are also consistent with past research from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shows a relationship between heat waves and heavy precipitation and the phenomenon of global warming.
A commentary accompanying the study from Peter Stott of the United Kingdom’s Hadley Centre:
“The idea that almost half of heavy rainfall events would not have occurred were it not for climate change is a sobering thought for policymakers seeking to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”
Even more troubling, the report says that climate change will increase extreme weather in future decades. By the middle of this century, if temperatures continue to increase, it predicts that human influence will be responsible for about 95% of all heat waves and 40% of precipitation extremes.