From record-breaking heat waves to catastrophic floods, extreme weather events these days tend to quickly inspire the same question: Is climate change the culprit?
The answer is never simple. It’s almost impossible to blame any individual climate or weather event entirely on global warming, when there are so many complex physical factors that may cause them. But scientists are getting better and better at figuring out to what extent climate change may have increased the probability or the severity of any given event.
Now, a group of scientists have extended this field of research to a global scale. In a new study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they’ve analyzed the influence of global warming on extreme climate events, such as record-breaking temperatures or rainfall, all over the world. And they’ve found that climate change has had a substantial effect.
The study suggests that anthropogenic global warming, as it has advanced, has had a significant hand in the temperatures seen during the hottest month and on the hottest day on record throughout much of the world. It finds that climate change substantially increased the likelihood of these record warm events occurring in the first place, and also made them more severe than they otherwise would have been, in more than 80 percent of the observed world.