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Actually, You Can Link Specific Weather Events to Climate Change --Bill Moyers and Company

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"You can't link climate change to specific weather events." That is the accepted wisdom that has been trotted out repeatedly as the wettest winter in at least 250 years battered England and Wales. But the accepted wisdom is wrong: It is perfectly[....]


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Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 10:16 am
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell -- description of photo - In Louri village in the Mao region of Chad, climate change has meant that the normally once-a-decade droughts are now coming every few years. November 2, 2012.

This post originally appeared at The Guardian and was republished at Mother Jones as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

“You can’t link climate change to specific weather events.” That is the accepted wisdom that has been trotted out repeatedly as the wettest winter in at least 250 years battered England and Wales. But the accepted wisdom is wrong: It is perfectly possible to make that link and as of today, you can play a part in doing so.

A new citizen science project launched by climate researchers at the University of Oxford will determine in the next month or so whether global warming made this winter’s extreme deluge more likely to occur, or not. You can sign up here.

The weather@home project allows you to donate your spare computer time in return for helping turn speculation over the role of climate change in extreme weather into statistical fact. That debate has been reignited by the devastating winter weather and the flooding and storm damage it wrought.

The research that links global warming to particular extreme weather events is called attribution and has already notched up notable successes. The Oxford team showed in 2011 that climate change was loading the extreme-weather dice as far back as 2000, in a study that showed serious flooding in England that year was made two to three times more likely by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The killer heat waves in Europe in 2003 and 2010 were also made far more likely by global warming, similar research has demonstrated, while another new study shows how Hurricane Katrina would have been far less devastating had it happened 100 years ago.

The attribution studies work by taking a period of time in which an extreme weather event occurred and rerunning it many thousands of times in climate models. One set of models starts with the actual real-world conditions — i.e., with high levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases — and reveals how frequently the extreme event occurs. Another set of models starts with atmospheric and ocean conditions that would have existed without the carbon emissions pumped into the air by human activities and therefore shows how frequently the extreme event occurs would occur in an unwarmed world.

Comparing the frequency of the extreme event in each set of models gives a measure of how heavily global warming has loaded the extreme-weather dice — or not. The models have to be run many thousands of times because the extreme events being studied are, by definition, rare. Many repetitions are required to generate robust statistics and that’s why they need your computer time: It’s a huge computing task. Nathalie Schaller, a member of the Oxford team, explains the experiment further in this video:

** See video at Site and please continue reading article **

The researchers do not know what the result of this new experiment will be and they will post the results of the computer model runs as they come in, on their site and this blog. The science will unfold live before your eyes and theirs, at the same time.

They estimate that a total of roughly 30,000 reruns of the English winter of 2013-14 will be needed to reach a definitive conclusion. That should take a month, depending on how many people sign up.

To give you a sense of what the results will look like, the team have generated some illustrative graphs, based on previous data but not pertaining to the new experiment. The plots show the chance of the total winter rainfall exceeding 450 millimeters in a particular year (the winter of 2013-14 saw 435 mm fall on England and Wales, the highest in records dating back to 1766).

Each rerun winter is represented by a dot, with blue dots coming from the set representing the real-world conditions and green dots coming from the set representing the modeled world without climate change. If the blue dots plot above the green dots, then climate change has made that event more likely and vice versa. If the dots plot in the same place, then climate change has not affected the chances of that event happening.

In the plot below, containing just 120 simulations of the winter, it is hard to discern any convincing trend. That is because when examining extreme events, many simulations are needed to generate a robust result.

** Thre is a video along with charts and graphs that make all of this very easy to comprehend. - please read on Site.

By: Damian Carrington | The Guardian | Mother Jones | Bill Moyers and Company |

Sue Matheson (79)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 10:30 am

Lois Jordan (63)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 5:27 pm
Noted. Interesting! Thanks, Kit. I will have to check this out more fully later when I have more time.

. (2)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 6:21 pm

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 6:32 pm
Whew, now that IS some challenge and something unprecedented I would think.
Sounds REALLY interesting to contribute to the attribute! But frankly, this coming to us the day after we heard Edward demanding of the tech community to develop technologies to better protect our data, security and privacy I am quite reluctant to download someone elses software whom I know nothing about. We have no more than the friendly invitation by a French English speaker and what the climate prediction net tells us. hm...
I think i want to sleep a night or 2 over this.. As much as I'd love to participate, somehow the idea of "letting someone else in" to my computer needs a second thought. Thx Kit, quite fascinating stuff there!

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 6:38 pm
Oh, and i also want to mention how awkward it seems in the first place, to even need to prove that link. I remember quite well when many years ago when people started talking about climate change, that they actually did point out there would be more frequent and stronger extreme weather occurrances, such as floods and storms. How questioning this ever became "accepted wisdom" is totally beyond me.

Mitchell D (82)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 7:08 pm
Angelika, I think that the questioning came from the difficulty of proving a link to a specific weather event. If one made such a claim, the easy answer would be to ask for the evidence for same: "Okay, it happened, but perhaps it was just another random bit of weather."
To put it another way, "Okay, let's say that 'The extremes will become extremer,' (as the first bona-fide weather scientist I ever heard commenting about global warming said), but that does not mean that you can prove that THIS event was caused by that, can you?"
The REAL scientific community has gone on record saying that it would take decades of recording weather changes to get to see a demonstrable pattern.
We may have that now.
This issue reminds me of the situation in our congress, a generation ago, when the conservatves, probably already whoring out to the power industry, used to say about Acid Rain, that it was "junk science, you can't prove it." Oops, at least that was there story until lakes began to die of it!

Kit B (276)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 7:20 pm

For some this has been a long road, I have been in earth science for about 40 years, working and watching comparing data and of course, I had teachers. Even more than hundred years ago people saw the filth accumulating from the industrial revolution and knew we were now in a toxic world. Well, finally with more than reasoned logic, with hard evidence on the table the question is not, " is climatic change real?" the question is "what are we going to do about this?"

. (5)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 7:24 pm

Bryna Pizzo (139)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 7:26 pm
The science in undeniable and has been for more than a decade. Furthermore, the results are happening far more quickly than they were originally thought to be, and the effects are tragic for humans and wildlife. Thank you for sharing Moyer's piece. (p, t)

. (0)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 9:12 pm

Laurie H (818)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 9:29 pm
Climate change is here, science & plenty of evidence backs it up. Our planet is sadly ailing, with changes in fast forward. Our precious environment, wildlife & people as well are all seeing & dealing with it's wrath. I would like to know "what we're doing about it" as well, Kit!! So Many Thanks, Kit!!!~~

Heidi Aubrey (5)
Tuesday March 11, 2014, 11:56 pm
Not many people know that Venus started off exactly as Earth did.........almost.

Both planets had water, volcanoes and an atmosphere.

What happened that Venus is now a 900 degree Fahrenheit surface? A toxic gas atmosphere?

They had MORE volcanoes than the newby Earth. Spewing MORE carbon dioxide than the Earth. All that gas of course was trapped by the atmosphere(on Earth as well) and wall-la we now have Venus.

This is the ultimate fate of the entire Earth unless we I mean Humankind finds a way to make it inert in vast, enormous volumes .............soon.

If not sooner, the later looks very bleak.

Sherri G (128)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 1:10 am
I downloaded the application. Some very bright students are probably writing their thesis on this subject and it is always nice for science to have another data point. We have been rolling the dice for too long at the expense of planet earth. Thank You Kit I enjoyed this article and comments. Noted

Ingo Schreiner (8)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 2:40 am

Athena F (131)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 3:28 am
thanks Kit, and spammer flagged

Lucas Kolasa (9)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 3:59 am

Craig Pittman (52)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 5:09 am
Another excellent used of social platforming. Great article thanks Kit.

Terry H (15)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 7:17 am
Thanks for linking this.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 7:19 am
Ok, at second look i guess there is nothing suspicious or dangerous about using BOINC and assisting in this research. To read more about the entire project, check the PDFs by Andy Bowery(google for BOINC workshop and WAH CPDN) Also here >

Will any of you participate? what about you, Kit and Sherri ?
I guess it would take up an average of about 4 hours/day if I read that correctly, hmm. might mean either Care2 OR Weather At Home.
The project has been going on since 2010, never heard about it before, should have been presented more widely by the media!
But, let's face it, no matter what compelling results any research will deliver (or has already been delivered for that matter), in the end it will always be a political decision if and what is done about it. Therefore, our priority should focus on electing the right people into office.

JL A (281)
Wednesday March 12, 2014, 5:32 pm
I like the participatory eleme nt
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