Two Weather At Home papers published in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
(From the press release)Extreme weather events in 2011 cost billions and claimed thousands of lives, but to what extent can such events be blamed on climate change due to rising greenhouse gas levels? The first set of studies to try to assess the extreme events of 2011 is published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), examining how human and natural influences on climate contributed to the weather events of 2011. Such assessments are a useful tool for those wanting to set levels of compensation, which by coincidence is high on the agenda of the Re|Source workshop in Oxford which was held this week for climate change negotiators from developing countries.
Two papers cited by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society results from the Oxford-led weatherathome project, in which members of the public help model recent weather trends on home computers. One, led by the University of Oregon, showed how the risk of the 2011 Texas heatwave and drought has increased substantially since the 1960s. The second, led by Neil Massey of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, showed how the odds of an exceptionally warm November, such as 2011’s, have increased over the same period in the UK, while the odds of a cold December, like 2010’s, have fallen.
‘Where and when extreme weather events occur is still largely a matter of luck,’ explains Professor Myles Allen of the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, a co-author on three of these new studies, ‘but science can help us understand how different factors are loading the weather dice.’
Both these studies note that various factors have contributed to climate change since the 1960s but that most of the recent large-scale warming was very likely due to the observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. The third study, led by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, concluded human influence on global climate had little to do with the 2011 floods that devastated Thailand.
‘Not all damaging weather events that occur have been made more likely by human-induced climate change,’ explains Allen. ‘Some, like those cold winters, appear to have been made less likely, but can still occur by chance. Others, like those Thai floods, haven’t been affected either way as far as we can tell. Sorting these things out is essential in working out the true cost of climate change.’
The possibility of compensation for unavoidable costs of climate change has explosive implications for international climate change negotiations. Dr Daniel Ortega-Pacheco, Director of Environment and Climate Change in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, in Oxford for the workshop of the European Capacity Building Initiative, remarked: ‘Quantifying loss and damage is vital for evidence-based climate policy. This kind of science will play a key role in future negotiations.’
The workshop for developing country negotiators in international climate change talks is led by Dr Benito Müeller, from the Faculty of Philosophy and Associate of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. The workshop, which took place on the 10th July, was attended by representatives from countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.