Does Climate Change Cause Extreme Weather?

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When people hear climate change, most think global warming; the increase in the average surface temperature of the earth, mostly due to humans burning fossil fuels, this traps carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, absorbing radiation and preventing it from escaping into outer space, which means the earth is slowly getting hotter over time.

Climate change is bigger than that, though it includes global warming, and all of the potential side effects, like melting glaciers or frequent droughts. The climate and weather is not the same thing I repeat, not the same thing. The difference is a measure of time.

The weather reflects changes in the atmosphere over a period of days or weeks, while climate is how the atmosphere behaves over really long periods of time, like decades or centuries even Scientists have accepted climate change as a general phenomenon. But, some politicians in Washington still don’t quite grasp the concept. The world is really not warming. Much of climate science today appears to be based more on exaggeration.

We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. I ask the chair, you know what this is? It’s a snowball. So, what about specific, actual, freaky weather events like Hurricane Harvey in Texas, or droughts in California? Major disasters like these are called extreme weather events. So, this big question is, does climate change cause extreme weather? – The short answer is that climate change influences extreme weather, but it’s not as simple as one thing causing the other. Let’s start with what we do know.

Extreme weather is on the rise. A recent study found that worldwide, there were almost two and a half times more extreme weather events in the first decade of this century than in the 1980’s. To help tease out the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events, climate scientists have started using a thing called attribution science and, what is that, you might ask When applied to extreme weather, attribution science breaks down how much climate change influenced the event versus just normal variations in weather.

The best way to understand attribution science is to understand the connection between smoking and lung cancer, Take Katrina, for example, She’s 60, has been a smoker her whole life, and, unfortunately, has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. Now, doctors can’t say for sure that her smoking caused her lung cancer, but doctors can say that her smoking great increased her chances of getting lung cancer. Now, imagine Katrina as a hurricane.

To understand the role of climate change, scientists would need to figure out if Katrina could still happen if humans had never burned fossil fuels. But, how does scientist study a world where humans don’t burn fossil fuels if that world doesn’t exist? – The answer is models. I’m talking about climate models; of course, they are basically computer programs that simulate how the earth’s climate will change over time. So, let’s say you’re trying to figure out if climate change played a role in Hurricane Harvey.

Using attribution science, you’d essentially set up two models:

  1. Model one, the world without humans burning fossil fuels
  2. Model two, a world like ours today, where we do burn fossil fuels

Then, you run the scenario millions of times in each model. In each run, you tried a different variation. What you get is a probability, how likely the hurricane was to occur in a world without humans, versus the world as it exists today. In general, climate change models can’t tell us if climate change is the cause of any particular extreme weather event, but they do indicate that climate change is making those events more severe.

Climate change is causing higher sea levels and warmer waters, and that’s leading to stronger hurricanes and heavier rainfall. Going forward, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that if climate change continues at its current rate, extreme weather will only get more extreme.

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