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An Independent Assessment of Anthropogenic Attribution Statements for Recent Extreme Temperature and Rainfall Events

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  • 1 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
  • | 2 Department of Statistics, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
  • | 3 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
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Abstract

The annual “State of the Climate” report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), has included a supplement since 2011 composed of brief analyses of the human influence on recent major extreme weather events. There are now several dozen extreme weather events examined in these supplements, but these studies have all differed in their data sources as well as their approaches to defining the events, analyzing the events, and the consideration of the role of anthropogenic emissions. This study reexamines most of these events using a single analytical approach and a single set of climate model and observational data sources. In response to recent studies recommending the importance of using multiple methods for extreme weather event attribution, results are compared from these analyses to those reported in the BAMS supplements collectively, with the aim of characterizing the degree to which the lack of a common methodological framework may or may not influence overall conclusions. Results are broadly similar to those reported earlier for extreme temperature events but disagree for a number of extreme precipitation events. Based on this, it is advised that the lack of comprehensive uncertainty analysis in recent extreme weather attribution studies is important and should be considered when interpreting results, but as yet it has not introduced a systematic bias across these studies.

Denotes Open Access content.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0077.s1.

Corresponding author address: Oliver Angélil, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Australia, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia. E-mail: molofishy@gmail.com

Abstract

The annual “State of the Climate” report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), has included a supplement since 2011 composed of brief analyses of the human influence on recent major extreme weather events. There are now several dozen extreme weather events examined in these supplements, but these studies have all differed in their data sources as well as their approaches to defining the events, analyzing the events, and the consideration of the role of anthropogenic emissions. This study reexamines most of these events using a single analytical approach and a single set of climate model and observational data sources. In response to recent studies recommending the importance of using multiple methods for extreme weather event attribution, results are compared from these analyses to those reported in the BAMS supplements collectively, with the aim of characterizing the degree to which the lack of a common methodological framework may or may not influence overall conclusions. Results are broadly similar to those reported earlier for extreme temperature events but disagree for a number of extreme precipitation events. Based on this, it is advised that the lack of comprehensive uncertainty analysis in recent extreme weather attribution studies is important and should be considered when interpreting results, but as yet it has not introduced a systematic bias across these studies.

Denotes Open Access content.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-16-0077.s1.

Corresponding author address: Oliver Angélil, Climate Change Research Centre, UNSW Australia, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia. E-mail: molofishy@gmail.com

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