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Map shows how Climate Change affects extreme weather around the world

The Carbon Brief interactive map is updated periodically to serve as a real-time tracker of how Climate Change affects extreme weather around the world

Climate Change affects extreme weather
This image of western Greenland clicked on August 1 by ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 shows as an active wildfire burning on the left of the island’s ice sheet. The blue spots show the abundant melting ponds due to the melting ice. Source ESA

The unprecedented heatwave in Europe and widespread wildfires in, of all places (hold your breath!) Greenland have somewhat signaled now that extreme localized weather events are becoming a way of life. And it is likely to increase, scientists have warned. A new field of climate science research which emerged in the 2000s believes that Climate Change is leading to extreme localized weather events such as floods, heat waves, droughts and storms. The field, also known as “extreme event attribution”, has off late gained momentum in the media and public imagination since it links the seemingly abstract concept of Climate Change with our own tangible experiences of the weather.

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Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy, has come up with an interactive map based on the data published in every extreme event attribution study published in a peer-reviewed journal.

According to Carbon Brief, over 234 studies have been published looking at extreme weather events around the world which increasingly point to human intervention. Human-caused climate change has altered the likelihood or severity of an extreme weather event in 78% of cases studied (68% made more severe or likely and 10% made less so). In Carbon Brief’s first edition of this analysis in 2017, 68% of events were found to have a human impact (with 63% made more severe or likely and 6% less so).

Carbon Brief aims to update the map periodically, as new studies are published, so that it serves as a real-time tracker for the evolving field of “extreme event attribution”.

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How to use the map

climate change affects extreme weatherUsing the right panel, one can zoom in and out to view a particular part of the world, or use the filter on the right to select different symbols that represent different types of extreme weather events — Atmosphere, drought, storm, wildfire, heat, El Nino. There are also some new categories of events in this update, including “coral bleaching” and “ecosystem services”, reflecting the ongoing developments in attribution science. Colors on the right side panel tells you if scientists found Climate Change playing a role in the event, while the keys below can be used to select different kind of weather events.

A click on a weather event to reveal more information, including a quote from the original paper to summarize the findings and a link to the online version of the study. The filter on the left allows users to select a specific type of weather event to look at or, for example, only those found to be influenced by climate change.

How Climate Change affects extreme weather

An analysis of all extreme weather events-related data suggests 68% of such events were made more likely or more severe by human-caused Climate Change. Heatwaves account for nearly half of such events (43%), droughts 17% and heavy rainfall or floods16%.

The Carbon Brief team mapped 260 extreme weather events covered by 234 individual scientific papers across the globe. Single study covering multiple events or different locations have been separated out. The different symbols show the type of extreme weather; for example, a heatwave, flood or drought. The colors indicate whether the attribution study found a link to human-caused climate change (red), no link (blue) or was inconclusive (grey). It is important to note that the weather events scientists have studied so far are not randomly chosen. They can be high-profile events, such as Hurricane Harvey, or simply the events that occurred nearest to scientific research centers. )

Climate Change affects extreme weather It is to be noted that climate studies over the past two decades is heavily dominated by research on extreme heat (31%), rainfall or flooding (20%) and drought (18%). Together, these make up more than two-thirds of all published studies (68%). The full list is available here. Not surprisingly, the number of events studied each year has grown rapidly over time; from eight in 2012 to 59 in 2018.

Carbon Brief adds that the majority of studies included here have been published in the annual “Explaining extreme events” special issues of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). Other studies have been found through the Climate Signals database and online searches through journals.