Droughts, Snowstorms, Heatwaves: NOAA Ties Much Extreme Weather in 2014 to Climate Change

A long exposure image shows the El Portal Fire burning near Yosemite National Park, California in late July 2014. (Photo: Stuart Palley, EPA)

Droughts, Snowstorms, Heatwaves: NOAA Ties Much Extreme Weather in 2014 to Climate Change

Federal agency says human-caused climate change "greatly increased the likelihood and intensity for extreme heat waves in 2014 over various regions."

Deadly cyclones in the Pacific. Deluges in Europe. Heat waves in numerous regions of the world. According to a far-reaching study released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), many of the specific extreme weather events that defined 2014 were "influenced" by human-made events, particularly climate change.

Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective was published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and draws on conclusions from 32 international teams of scientists who investigated 28 separate weather events.

"A number of this year's studies indicate that human-caused climate change greatly increased the likelihood and intensity for extreme heat waves in 2014 over various regions," a report summary states. "For other types of extreme events, such as droughts, heavy rains, and winter storms, a climate change influence was found in some instances and not in others."

However, the researchers noted that their failure to identify a climate change link could "also mean that the human influence cannot be conclusively identified with the scientific tools available today."

What is clear from the report is that numerous dramatic and deadly extreme weather events around the world in 2014 were tied to climate change, including the following examples, as quoted from NOAA:

  • Two studies showed that the drought in East Africa was made more severe because of climate change.
  • Extreme heat events in Korea and China were linked to human-caused climate change.
  • Devastating 2014 floods in Jakarta are becoming more likely due to climate change and other human influences.
  • Meteorological drivers that led to the extreme Himalayan snowstorm of 2014 have increased in likelihood due to climate change.
  • The Argentinean heat wave of December 2013 was made five times more likely because of human-induced climate change.
  • Four independent studies all pointed toward human influence causing a substantial increase in the likelihood and severity of heat waves across Australia in 2014.
  • Tropical cyclones that hit Hawaii were substantially more likely because of human-induced climate change.
  • Human-induced climate change and land-use both played a role in the flooding that occurred in the southeastern Canadian Prairies.
  • Overall probability of California wildfires has increased due to human-induced climate change, however, no specific link could be made for the 2014 fire event.

"As the science of event attribution continues to advance, so too will our ability to detect and distinguish the effects of long-term climate change and natural variability on individual extreme events," Tom Karl, head of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, said in a statement. "Until this is fully realized, communities would be well-served to look beyond the range of past extreme events to guide future resiliency efforts."

The report comes just days after a rare and powerful cyclone made landfall in Yemen, impacting over 1.1 million people and displacing 40,000.

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