After the extreme weather that the US has been facing over the past month, there has been some speculation that Americans have become more convinced that climate change is happening. While all extreme weather cannot be attributed to climate change, climate change researchers have been able to attribute recent weather events to the effects of human activity on the earth’s climate for the first time, marking a major milestone for climate research.
PBS NewsHour discussed the new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report which says that climate change, including human factors, has increased the odds of extreme weather. NOAA is reporting that the first half of 2012 was in fact the hottest on record, with 170 all-time heat records matched or broken. The report attempted to assess the role climate change, including human factors, played in six major extreme weather events in 2011. The report concluded that the 2011Texas drought was influenced by human factors, citing that it was 20 times more likely to occur than 50 years ago because of the rising temperatures related to increasing greenhouse gases. The report found that there was less of a connection with flooding in Thailand.
Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center oversaw the study and related the current weather extremes to a baseball player on steroids. He said:
“Now, if you’re going to break records, home run records, you’re likely going to have to be a home run hitter. With someone on steroids, the likelihood of hitting a ball over the fence and hitting a home run increases. And that is what we’re seeing. The increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to warmer global temperatures.
Those then break global temperature records. They also have other impacts, like increases in precipitation intensity, more intense droughts. These are the kinds of things we’re seeing, more records with greater severity and intensity than they might have otherwise been.”
CNN reported on NOAA’s findings, explaining that as we change the climate by emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere, we are shifting the odds for extreme weather events. According to Moni Basu of CNN, it’s sort of like “upping your chances of a car accident if you’re speeding.”
The Guardian discussed the importance of this big advance in climate science. As opposed to attributing weather events from 10 years ago or more to human-induced climate change, there are now statistics to support current trends. They interviewed Peter Stott of the UK’s Met Office who said: “We are much more confident about attributing [weather effects] to climate change. This is all adding up to a stronger and stronger picture of human influence on the climate.”
Not all extreme weather events can be attributed to climate change but the recent NOAA report received significant positive press for the strides it has made in connecting the dots between extreme weather events and increased greenhouse gas emissions.