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Dusting for “fingerprints” on our climate: Innovations in the attribution of extreme events

by James Arnott, Aspen Global Change Institute

November 2021 Research Review

Did global warming cause last week’s heatwave (or wildfire or flood or hurricane) in my hometown? Scientists treat this inquiry a bit like detective work, attempting to find a human “fingerprint” in climate and weather phenomena. Extreme events, by definition, are rare. This makes identifying fingerprints for just a single occurrence more difficult than attributing global trends in extremes to human-driven climate change (as the IPCC does with increasing confidence). However, scientists are finding ways to produce so-called “attribution” studies. Analytical advances, along with communicating findings better, mean attribution studies are now more relevant for impacted communities, policymakers, and the media in the wake of a particular extreme event.

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Published Date: 
November 30, 2021
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