Study links extreme weather to human impact

Man-made climate warming increased the risk of extreme weather events in 2016, according to a report featuring Edinburgh research.

Flash floods, extreme heat and coral bleaching were among several major weather events linked to human influence on climate, the annual study states.

Natural variability in climate from year to year would not be enough to explain these, researchers say.

Understanding risk

The findings, in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, aid understanding of the risk posed by extreme weather events linked to climate change.

A study from Edinburgh scientists, highlighted in the report, found that human warming increased five-fold the risk of dry air linked to seasonal wildfires in western North America.

Edinburgh researchers also examined the impact of human influence on the likelihood of cold surges in China, such as that seen in early 2015. They found that man-made warming reduced the risk of such weather by two-thirds.

Climate impact

Elsewhere in the findings, man-made climate change was shown to affect the severity of 2016’s El Niño – periodic warming in the Pacific, linked to extreme weather.

It also influenced the degree of bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef, and contributed to extreme warmth that impacted on Pacific Ocean fisheries in 2016.

Almost 30 studies of extreme weather across five continents and two oceans during 2016 were included in the study.

It features research from more than 100 scientists from 18 countries.

Research continues to link the increased risk of many devastating weather events from around the world to human greenhouse gas emissions. The outcome of this far-reaching report should help us understand the risks and likely impacts of such extreme events.

Professor Simon TettSchool of GeoSciences

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