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"Heatwave in London" (Photo:  David Mills/flickr/cc)

Sizzle, Sizzle, Fossil Fuels and Trouble: Study Confirms Climate Change Drove Extreme Heat Waves

NOAA's new report finds climate change behind five heat waves that occurred across globe in 2013

Andrea Germanos

A new study has added to body of evidence linking human-caused climate change with extreme heat events.

Published Monday by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the NOAA-led study investigated the causes of 16 extreme weather events in 2013 across four continents. This third such annual report covered analyses by 20 global research groups.

The analyses "overwhelmingly show" a link between the five heat waves included in the study—ones that hit Australia, Korea, Europe, Japan and China—and climate change. The effects of climate change mean more long-duration summer heat waves and overall warming annual temperatures are becoming as much as 10 times more likely, the study finds.

The link between climate change and other extreme events from 2013, including storms and droughts, was less clear, the authors write, thought they note: "A failure to find anthropogenic signals for several events examined in this report does not prove anthropogenic climate change had no role to play. Rather, an anthropogenic contribution to these events that is distinguishable from natural climate variability could not be detected by these analyses. Thus, there may have been an anthropogenic role, but these particular analyses did not find one."

The study's findings are important not only to understand how runaway emissions have fueled these events but to also better prepare for the ones to come, NOAA states.

"This annual report contributes to a growing field of science which helps communities, businesses and nations alike understand the impacts of natural and human-caused climate change," stated Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. "The science remains challenging, but the environmental intelligence it yields to decision makers is invaluable and the demand is ever-growing."

"Results from this report not only add to our body of knowledge about what drives extreme events, but what the odds are of these events happening again—and to what severity," added Stephanie C. Herring, PhD, lead editor for the report at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.


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