Climate change and extreme weather: the link

Wildfires in the southwest, flooding in North Dakota, tornadoes all over the place.

Is this a fluke? Or something we can expect more of, a consequence of climate change?

Earlier today, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change released a "white paper" that attempts to explain the connection between extreme weather and climate change. It was released in coordination with a three-part series in Scientific American

"Is global warming causing more extreme weather?" the introduction to the Pew paper posits. 

"The short and simple answer is yes, at least for heat waves and heavy precipitation. But much of the public discussion of this relationship obscures the link behind a misplaced focus on causation of individual weather events. The questions we ask of science are critical: When we ask whether climate change “caused” a particular event, we pose a fundamentally unanswerable question. This fallacy assures that we will often fail to draw connections between individual weather events and climate change, leading us to disregard the real risks of more extreme weather due to global warming."

Undoubtedly, scientists say, the stakes are rising and extreme weather will increase. The paper notes that from 1958 to 2007, the number of days with "very heavy precipitation" increased by 58 percent in the northeast.

The 13-page report itself might seem a little technical to some, but I was impressed by how accessible it was. It seems intended for a general audience. 

The Pew website adds on a wealth of related content, including an extreme weather events map and timeline.