Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

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Bird on a Fire
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Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Feb 26, 2021 12:02 pm

is now possible.

In the old days, the response to journalists' questions about "is this related to climate change" was always along the lines of, while climate change will increase the frequency of events such as this it's not possible to assign individual events to climate change.

However, science moves on, and meteorologists and climate scientists have been developing the field of 'climate attribution'.

A recent perspective piece in Nature (free access) explains:
The randomness of weather is still a challenge, but physics-based calculations of the workings of the global atmosphere can simulate numerous ways in which the weather could have played out, and compare that with versions of how the weather would have looked in the ‘world that might have been’ without human influence. This lets us estimate how anthropogenic climate change shifted the odds of a drought, heatwave or heavy rain event.

The most crucial use of this information is to make planning more pragmatic. Putting numbers on the increased likelihood of weather extremes increasingly informs my work on climate-change risk assessments, which in turn helps policymakers and planners to apply these methods to saving lives and livelihoods.

Knowing how much more likely heavy rains or heatwaves are can help those who manage grids, roads and rivers to prepare for events that are no longer too improbable to worry about. After major flooding in 2007, UK electricity-transmission and electricity-distribution companies implemented flood-protection measures for substations; quantifying how climate change is increasing flood risk helped to convince the industry regulator that the investment was necessary.
A recent special issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society called Explaining Extreme Events of 2019 from a Climate Perspective contains a whole load of open-access articles exploring the extent of anthropogenic influence on all kinds of extreme weather events, from fires to floods, rainfall and heatwaves.

Climate attribution is now a very active area of mainstream earth sciences research. Expect to see more comments attributing events to climate change following natural disasters in 2021.
Last edited by Bird on a Fire on Fri Feb 26, 2021 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Feb 26, 2021 5:34 pm

The climate emergency is already hitting “worst case scenario” levels that if left unchecked will lead to the collapse of ecosystems, with dire consequences for humanity, according to the chief executive of the Environment Agency.

Warning that this is not “science fiction”, Sir James Bevan said on Tuesday that in recent years several of the “reasonable worst case scenarios” had happened in the UK, with more extreme weather and flooding. And he urged politicians to take action to reduce emissions and adapt to the “inevitable” impacts of the climate emergency.
“If [this] sounds like science fiction let me tell you something you need to know. This is that over the last few years the reasonable worst case for several of the flood incidents the EA has responded to has actually happened, and it’s getting larger.

“That is why our thinking needs to change faster than the climate. And why our response needs to match the scale of the challenge.”
https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... gency-head
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by discovolante » Fri Feb 26, 2021 5:53 pm

Time for a bit more civil disobedience I guess :| people can mock XR all they like but they kept climate change on the agenda.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by JQH » Fri Feb 26, 2021 10:11 pm

I suspect the denialists will continue sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "Lalalala can't hear you!"
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Feb 26, 2021 10:23 pm

discovolante wrote:
Fri Feb 26, 2021 5:53 pm
Time for a bit more civil disobedience I guess :| people can mock XR all they like but they kept climate change on the agenda.
Totes. I do love the idea of sensible people having sensible meetings to set sensible targets and getting on with things in an orderly manner.

Unfortunately, even though we need a 45% reduction in emissions in the next 9 years to meet the Paris Agreement, the best the sensible people have managed to come up with so far is 1%. https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... t_b-gdneco

So maybe being sensible isn't that sensible after all, and the really sensible people are the ones digging tunnels and dropping boulders in the sea?
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by monkey » Fri Feb 26, 2021 11:27 pm

BOAF, your 2nd link wasn't working, I think this is the page your trying to link to, the address is the same, but doesn't have the slash at the end.

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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Feb 26, 2021 11:32 pm

monkey wrote:
Fri Feb 26, 2021 11:27 pm
BOAF, your 2nd link wasn't working, I think this is the page your trying to link to, the address is the same, but doesn't have the slash at the end.

clicky
Thanks! I'll fix it.

Move over spy pixels - I have an even sneakier way to see if anybody reads my posts ;)
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by dyqik » Sat Feb 27, 2021 12:05 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Fri Feb 26, 2021 11:32 pm
monkey wrote:
Fri Feb 26, 2021 11:27 pm
BOAF, your 2nd link wasn't working, I think this is the page your trying to link to, the address is the same, but doesn't have the slash at the end.

clicky
Thanks! I'll fix it.

Move over spy pixels - I have an even sneakier way to see if anybody reads my posts ;)
Technically I have an more even sneakier way to change what you see when you look there, but I can't be bothered to use it.

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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by discovolante » Sat Feb 27, 2021 11:15 am

JQH wrote:
Fri Feb 26, 2021 10:11 pm
I suspect the denialists will continue sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "Lalalala can't hear you!"
I'm not sure how big of an issue climate denialists are these days*, in the grand scheme of things. I'm happy to be corrected but as BOAF points out, the general consensus seems to be 'yeah, we need to do something, but we're going to do it really slowly because causing disruption now is far worse than the inevitable disruption in the future because we don't have to face up to that yet.' I guess that, broadly speaking, in other countries that aren't prepared to act a big issue isn't whether climate change is a thing but more, why should we do anything about it when we are facing all these other issues and didn't cause the problem in the first place.

Talking in massive generalizations here! :)


*depending to a large extent on the way the wind is blowing in the US of course, which would be a fair counter argument...
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Trinucleus » Sat Feb 27, 2021 4:29 pm

Leeds City Council have done their bit by declaring a climate emergency.

Then granting planning permission for a new terminal at Leeds Bradford airport......

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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by monkey » Sat Feb 27, 2021 4:41 pm

discovolante wrote:
Sat Feb 27, 2021 11:15 am
JQH wrote:
Fri Feb 26, 2021 10:11 pm
I suspect the denialists will continue sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "Lalalala can't hear you!"
I'm not sure how big of an issue climate denialists are these days*, in the grand scheme of things. I'm happy to be corrected but as BOAF points out, the general consensus seems to be 'yeah, we need to do something, but we're going to do it really slowly because causing disruption now is far worse than the inevitable disruption in the future because we don't have to face up to that yet.' I guess that, broadly speaking, in other countries that aren't prepared to act a big issue isn't whether climate change is a thing but more, why should we do anything about it when we are facing all these other issues and didn't cause the problem in the first place.

Talking in massive generalizations here! :)


*depending to a large extent on the way the wind is blowing in the US of course, which would be a fair counter argument...
The denialists are still there, they've just changed their tune. Michael Mann calls them "inactivists" because they are encouraging doing nothing. They might not be denying climate change anymore, but they still deny science.

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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Feb 28, 2021 1:28 pm

Doing nothing is the mainstream position. Talk a big game but don't commit to any serious actions.

Any government that hasn't set legally binding targets for a drastic (>50%) reduction in emissions by 2030 is in denial.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Feb 28, 2021 1:34 pm

Instead they're building new airports, approving coal mines and oil fields, subsidising land use that impedes forest regeneration. Jet fuel is tax exempt in the EU. They're all mad.

They need to be banning new ICEs by 2030, slapping a hefty carbon tax on polluting luxuries like beef and flying (while ensuring people can still heat their homes etc), large areas of rewetting and reforesting and so on.

The science has been settled for ages but absolutely everyone has their head in the sand, more interested in sneering at activists than holding their elected representatives to account.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Feb 28, 2021 2:12 pm

The Atlantic Ocean circulation that underpins the Gulf Stream, the weather system that brings warm and mild weather to Europe, is at its weakest in more than a millennium, and climate breakdown is the probable cause, according to new data.

Further weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) could result in more storms battering the UK, more intense winters and an increase in damaging heatwaves and droughts across Europe.

Scientists predict that the AMOC will weaken further if global heating continues, and could reduce by about 34% to 45% by the end of this century, which could bring us close to a “tipping point” at which the system could become irrevocably unstable. A weakened Gulf Stream would also raise sea levels on the Atlantic coast of the US, with potentially disastrous consequences.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... scientists

The scientists explain more here https://www.pik-potsdam.de/en/news/late ... millennium Note that "weakest point in a millennium" doesn't mean that it was weaker a millennium ago, it's just that that's how far back they've reconstructed the proxies. It's unprecedentedly weak based on our data.

Full study is here but closed access https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-021-00699-z
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Feb 28, 2021 2:19 pm

monkey wrote:
Sat Feb 27, 2021 4:41 pm
discovolante wrote:
Sat Feb 27, 2021 11:15 am
JQH wrote:
Fri Feb 26, 2021 10:11 pm
I suspect the denialists will continue sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "Lalalala can't hear you!"
I'm not sure how big of an issue climate denialists are these days*, in the grand scheme of things. I'm happy to be corrected but as BOAF points out, the general consensus seems to be 'yeah, we need to do something, but we're going to do it really slowly because causing disruption now is far worse than the inevitable disruption in the future because we don't have to face up to that yet.' I guess that, broadly speaking, in other countries that aren't prepared to act a big issue isn't whether climate change is a thing but more, why should we do anything about it when we are facing all these other issues and didn't cause the problem in the first place.

Talking in massive generalizations here! :)


*depending to a large extent on the way the wind is blowing in the US of course, which would be a fair counter argument...
The denialists are still there, they've just changed their tune. Michael Mann calls them "inactivists" because they are encouraging doing nothing. They might not be denying climate change anymore, but they still deny science.
There's an interesting interview with Mann on this here https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... -interview
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Fishnut » Thu Mar 04, 2021 2:44 pm

This is a really good piece on the weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation. Normally I hate these "let's show you a photo behind five words so you have to continually scroll down to read what's actually a rather short article" features but it takes you around the gulf stream and puts the main story in nice paragraphs.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Fishnut » Tue Mar 30, 2021 2:14 pm

Not extreme weather, but seasonal changes: climate crisis 'likely cause' of early cherry blossom in Japan.
This year, peak bloom [of cherry trees] was reached on 26 March in the ancient capital of Kyoto, the earliest since the Japan Meteorological Agency started collecting the data in 1953 and 10 days ahead of the 30-year average. Similar records were set this year in more than a dozen cities across Japan...

The agency tracks 58 “benchmark” cherry trees across the country, and this year 40 of those already have reached their peak bloom and 14 have done so in record time.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by basementer » Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:33 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Tue Mar 30, 2021 2:14 pm
Not extreme weather, but seasonal changes: climate crisis 'likely cause' of early cherry blossom in Japan.
This year, peak bloom [of cherry trees] was reached on 26 March in the ancient capital of Kyoto, the earliest since the Japan Meteorological Agency started collecting the data in 1953 and 10 days ahead of the 30-year average. Similar records were set this year in more than a dozen cities across Japan...

The agency tracks 58 “benchmark” cherry trees across the country, and this year 40 of those already have reached their peak bloom and 14 have done so in record time.
Anecdotal: AE Housman wrote of the cherry as "Wearing white for Eastertide". Easter falls after the equinox, and A Shropshire Lad was published in 1896. I think I remember you reported cherry blossom a couple of weeks before the equinox, two or three years ago?
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Mar 31, 2021 1:16 pm

basementer wrote:
Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:33 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Tue Mar 30, 2021 2:14 pm
Not extreme weather, but seasonal changes: climate crisis 'likely cause' of early cherry blossom in Japan.
This year, peak bloom [of cherry trees] was reached on 26 March in the ancient capital of Kyoto, the earliest since the Japan Meteorological Agency started collecting the data in 1953 and 10 days ahead of the 30-year average. Similar records were set this year in more than a dozen cities across Japan...

The agency tracks 58 “benchmark” cherry trees across the country, and this year 40 of those already have reached their peak bloom and 14 have done so in record time.
Anecdotal: AE Housman wrote of the cherry as "Wearing white for Eastertide". Easter falls after the equinox, and A Shropshire Lad was published in 1896. I think I remember you reported cherry blossom a couple of weeks before the equinox, two or three years ago?
The Japanese study appears to be based on a pretty robust dataset, rather than anecdotes, so I'm pretty confident they're describing a real trend. The baseline climate is probably a bit different between Japan and UK?*

There's also a lot of studies showing flowering, leaf bud-burst etc. getting earlier in the UK (and all over the world) though: e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... tudy-shows

ETA Kyoto appears to be warmer and wetter than Shropshire during springtime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto#Climate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shropshire#Climate Not sure which factors affect cherry blossoming.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Fishnut » Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:52 pm

I've just watched a talk on British shieldbugs and their allies. The speaker was the national organiser of the Shieldbugs and allies Recording Scheme so knows his stuff. He presented data on species distributions and made the point that many species have expanded their ranges northwards over the last 20 years, particularly in the last decade. Species only found in the south of the UK have spread across the country with some even being found in Scotland now. He said there was strong evidence that this was due to climate change enabling host plant species to expand their range which means the shield bugs can expand their ranges too.
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Gfamily » Wed Mar 31, 2021 8:10 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Mar 31, 2021 1:16 pm

The Japanese study appears to be based on a pretty robust dataset, rather than anecdotes.
From Data is Beautiful on Reddit (can't confirm the validity though)
https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautifu ... _blossoms/
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Apr 01, 2021 1:59 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:52 pm
I've just watched a talk on British shieldbugs and their allies. The speaker was the national organiser of the Shieldbugs and allies Recording Scheme so knows his stuff. He presented data on species distributions and made the point that many species have expanded their ranges northwards over the last 20 years, particularly in the last decade. Species only found in the south of the UK have spread across the country with some even being found in Scotland now. He said there was strong evidence that this was due to climate change enabling host plant species to expand their range which means the shield bugs can expand their ranges too.
That's super interesting! I hadn't heard this for shieldbugs specifically, but it doesn't surprise me given the overall tendency for polewards (and higher-altitude) range shifts:

Image
(Image from here - I think birds and butterflies are often used as indicators of these community shifts because of the sheer volume of presence/absence data from amateur* naturalists).

At the last conference I attended in person, a researcher said "I never intended to study effects of climate change, but any long-term study inevitably become a climate-change study." In his case, he's been recording departures of migratory birds from New Zealand to Alaska, and finding the population average is getting earlier and earlier.

What's interesting is that individual birds tend to be very consistent, in both their timings (within a few days, with some influence of wind direction) and in the places they stopover and breed. But there seems to be a general trend for new recruits into these populations to do something different to their parents (e.g. this study), enabling the population to adapt at a rate limited by productivity. (Testing this hypothesis, and the mechanisms underpinning it that allow juveniles to respond to environmental conditions, is the focus of my PhD!)

One thing I never understood from climate denialists was how they thought plants, birds and butterflies were in the big conspiracy ;)


*in the older sense of people motivated principally by enthusiasm, rather than meaning that they aren't very good
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by Fishnut » Thu Apr 01, 2021 2:19 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 1:59 pm
What's interesting is that individual birds tend to be very consistent, in both their timings (within a few days, with some influence of wind direction) and in the places they stopover and breed. But there seems to be a general trend for new recruits into these populations to do something different to their parents (e.g. this study), enabling the population to adapt at a rate limited by productivity. (Testing this hypothesis, and the mechanisms underpinning it that allow juveniles to respond to environmental conditions, is the focus of my PhD!)
That's really interesting! I hadn't really given much thought to how it happens. bl..dy kids, always wanting to do things different to their parents ;)

Loads of taxa are showing polewards shifts. I saw it myself when I was in the Falklands and am on three papers reporting fish and squid seen at higher latitudes than previously recorded, with our hypothesis being that warming seas are shifting their ranges.

The great thing with British invertebrates is that there's a long history of collection. In the talk last night someone asked if the patterns could be down to more observers but the speaker pointed out that Victorian entomologists (amateur and professional) were extremely good at what they did and were on the look-out for rarities, so if a species was present in their patch they would likely have found it. The fact that there aren't any specimens in northern museums for a lot of the species now being seen is very good evidence that their absence was due to absence rather than people not looking. One species, the box bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus) was originally only known from a single site - Box Hill in Surrey but over the last decade has expanded its range as far west as Gloucestershire and as far north as Yorkshire!
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Re: Attribution of extreme weather to climate change

Post by bmforre » Thu Apr 01, 2021 5:59 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Apr 01, 2021 1:59 pm
One thing I never understood from climate denialists was how they thought plants, birds and butterflies were in the big conspiracy ;)
Trees are influenced by treehuggers. Obviously.

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