Although single events can rarely be confidently attributed to climate change, clusters probably can.
Extreme weather is the new normal. The wild weather that greeted the New Year of 2013 is a taste of things to come. All eyes were on Australia as a blistering heatwave triggered huge wildfires. The heatwave has produced a slew of amazing stories, including a family escaping by jumping into the sea and meteorologists adding new colours to heat maps.
But Australia’s fires are just the most dramatic of a cluster of ongoing extreme weather events, including droughts in the US and Brazil and a lethal cold snap in Asia (see “Drought, fire, ice: world is gripped by extreme weather”).
Lumping extreme weather events under a single umbrella can be misleading. Al Gore got into trouble when his film An Inconvenient Truth stitched together footage of numerous hurricanes and presented them as “evidence” of climate change.
But in this case it seems there really is a bigger picture.
Scientists have warned for years that extreme weather would become more common, and now it is. What’s more, although single events can rarely be confidently attributed to climate change, clusters probably can.
(New Scientist, 18/1/2013)