The findings indicate that scientists were right all along when it comes to severe weather.
A new study from the National Academy of Sciences has definitively linked extreme weather events to climate change, just as scientists had long predicted.
In the past, scientists had been hesitant about attributing such events as Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy due to the many number of factors that impact violent storms.
Scientists have instead said that individual events can’t be definitively linked to climate change, but the new study says that’s not the case anymore. Instead, scientists can at least determine the probability of these kind of events occurring, according to a statement from Penn State.
Experts can make and defense quantitative statements about how much human-induced climate change is causing certain types of events.
But it does differ with the type of event. It’s easier to attribute heat waves to global warming, for example, but things like heavy rainfall and drought are not predicted with as great a level of confidence.
Heavy rainfall tends to be influenced by an atmosphere with more moisture, which is directly related to human-induced warming and so scientists can predict it with medium confidence. However, the connection isn’t as direct as heat.
Then there are events that aren’t temperature related, at least not necessarily, such as wildfires, blizzards, and severe thunderstorms.
“In the past, many scientists have been cautious of attributing specific extreme weather events to climate change. People frequently ask questions such as, ‘Did climate change cause Hurricane Sandy?’ Science can’t answer that because there are so many relevant factors for hurricanes. What this report is saying is that we can attribute an increased magnitude or frequency of some extreme weather events to climate change,” David Titley, professor of practice in Penn State’s Department of Meteorology and founding director of Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, said in the statement. “If we can actually understand how and why frequencies or magnitudes change of extreme events are changing, those are two components of risk. Understanding that risk is crucial for governments and businesses. For example, if you’re managing a business, you may need to know whether there may be more droughts in the future because that may impact supply chain logistics and, ultimately, your bottom dollar.”